No Internet Shutdown During Elections

Karachi: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has said that internet services will remain functional on Thursday as the people are voting to elect a new government. The PTA in a statement on Wednesday said it had not yet received any instructions from the government to shut internet and that services would work without any interruption on Thursday. Pakistanis on Thursday began voting in the general elections to elect a new government to rule the cash-strapped country. The polling started at 8.00 AM and will continue without any break till 5.00 PM. A countrywide public holiday has been declared to enable a total of 128,585,760 registered voters to cast their votes. The authority’s statement came a day after caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz on Tuesday hinted at the possible suspension of internet services in case of security issues in any area on election day. Many non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International, had called for uninterrupted internet access across the country during the polling process. Ejaz had said the government would consider suspending the internet service on February 8 only if it received a request from a district or province owing to the security situation. In an open letter, Amnesty International urged the authorities to guarantee uninterrupted access to the internet and digital communication platforms for everyone across Pakistan throughout the polling process. “We, the undersigned organisations and members of the #KeepItOn coalition – a global network of over 300 organisations from 105 countries working to end internet shutdowns – appeal to you, Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, to publicly commit to ensuring that the people of Pakistan have unfettered access to the internet, social media platforms, and all other communication channels throughout the upcoming general election on February 8, 2024,” the London-based NGO said. It noted as people prepared to vote, the authorities must adopt and prioritise measures that advanced rights by enabling unrestricted access to information and avenues for freedom of expression, assembly, and association – both offline and online. In a related development, the Sindh High Court on Tuesday, yet again, directed the federal authorities concerned to ensure the provision of smooth, uninterrupted internet service and access to social media platforms unless the relevant laws were invoked till February 21.



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