No Internet On Election Day

News Desk5 months ago

According to the minister, given the security situation, the government would only think about blocking internet access on February 8 if a district or province requested it.

Mr. Ejaz asserted that the caretaker administration has not yet decided whether to halt internet access on election day and that any such move would only happen in response to a request from a district or province in question.

He said, “The government would look into the nature of the threat before taking any such decision for a specific area as it is necessary to block the online communication of terrorists.”

Gohar Ejaz and interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi were addressing at a news conference in Islamabad.

The day before, Mr. Solangi had ruled out the prospect of an internet outage on election day, citing the ability of local administrations to take such a choice given the state of law and order and the fact that no such crisis had been recorded up to that point.

On election day, the province’s key voting places would have temporary internet connection restrictions, according to interim Balochistan Information Minister Jan Achakzai.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has said that the system will function offline even in the event of a dispute on the proposal to utilize the new Election Management System (EMS) in the polls.

It asked in an open letter to the authorities to ensure that everyone in Pakistan had “uninterrupted access” to digital communication platforms and the internet during the voting process.

“Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, we, the undersigned organizations and members of the #KeepItOn coalition — a global network of over 300 organizations from 105 countries working to end internet shutdowns — appeal to you, 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 statement read.

It stated that the government must prioritize and adopt steps that promote human rights by providing freely access to information and channels for offline and online freedom of speech, assembly, and association, as the people of Pakistan get ready to cast their votes.

“This will also contribute to an inclusive, free, and fair election process,” the organisation said.

The Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act, 1996 and the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2021 contain specific rules that should prevent any disruption or shutdown of mobile phone, internet, or broadband services until January 29. The SHC issued an interim restraining order on January 24 and requested that the PTA and other respondents make sure this order was followed.

The interior, information technology, and communication ministries, as well as a federal law officer, requested an extension of time on January 29 to submit remarks. In response, the court postponed the hearing until February 6 and prolonged the temporary injunction.

Lawyers Jibran Nasir and Hyder Raza, along with the Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan, filed petitions against the ministries and PTA for interfering with the use of social media platforms, disrupting broadband and mobile internet service without a valid reason, and attempting to prevent political parties and independent candidates from using social media to campaign ahead of the February 8 election.

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