Internet services suspended in Makran | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Internet services suspended in Makran

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: Internet services have been suspended in Makran region of Balochistan because of security threats, Election Management System (EMS) Project Director Col (retd) Muhammad Saad Ali on Wednesday revealed – just a day before the general polls.

Talking to media personnel in Islamabad, the EMS project director elaborated that there could be some delay in receiving the results because of the lack of internet.

He further said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would receive the results on the second day if not the first.

“It’s not a major issue,” he added.

Col (retd) Saad continued that nothing could be guaranteed but as human beings, they had tried to ensure that there were no problems in the EMS on the day of the elections.

He told the media that the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) had assured the ECP that there would be no power outages on the polling day.

The official explained that the presiding officers were being logged into the EMS.

He added that retuning officers (ROs) and field officers were being monitored from the control room in Islamabad.
The EMS project director said if the internet services were suspended, the presiding officer would have a problem in sending the results but not the ROs.

“Our target is that form 45 reaches the ROs on time.”

He explained that the communication between the presiding officer and the RO would be through the internet.
He continued that the ROs would announce the results as soon as they received them.

Col (retd) Saad said there might be delay in receiving the results from the offices of around 10% ROs.

Earlier, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) assured the nation that internet services would not be suspended in the country on February 8 or Thursday (today) – the day set for the general elections.

According to a statement issued by the PTA on Wednesday, users can expect internet facilities to be available without interruption or obstacles on the day of the elections.

The authority clarified that the interim government had not issued any directives for shutting down internet services on the polling day.

The confirmation came a day earlier after interim Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz dispelled rumours surrounding the February 8 polls, saying that until now the authorities had not received any directives to shut down internet services on the day of the elections.

He added that any such action would only be taken upon a request from a province or a district.

“As of now, no decision has been made to shut down mobile or internet services. However, if necessary, considerations are made based on security requests from specific districts or provinces [internet and mobile service will be suspended],” he remarked.

However on Tuesday, Ejaz had acknowledged the possibility of internet disruptions and shutdowns during Thursday’s polls.

This prompted the Amnesty International (AI), in collaboration with several other human rights organisations, to issue a call to authorities in Pakistan, urging them to guarantee uninterrupted access to internet and digital communication platforms for all citizens across the country during the elections.

Expressing concern over the potential limitations on internet access, the AI underscored the importance of upholding the right to freedom of expression as well as ensuring that citizens could freely share and access information online.

Internet services have been affected thrice in the past two months. The first time was on December 17, the second on January 7, and the latest one on January 20. The suspensions coincided with the PTI’s virtual events.

The interim government attributed the internet outages across the country to “technical issues”, stating that there was no assurance that such incidents would not recur in the future.

On January 24, the Sindh High Court restrained the relevant authorities from suspending internet services till the general elections.

The high court ordered the caretaker federal government and PTA to ensure uninterrupted internet services till the polling day.

The order came on a petition filed by human rights defender and lawyer Jibran Nasir, who is contesting the polls for PS-110 as an independent candidate, against the frequent “unconstitutional” internet outages in the country in recent days.

Recently, the PTI moved the Supreme Court, urging it to take notice of the disruption of popular social media platforms including X, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube – on which the party was relying as a last resort to sway its voters and voice its concerns.

Source: Express Tribune

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