Sindh High Court Seeks Clarification on Election Day Internet and Social Media Shutdown | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Sindh High Court Seeks Clarification on Election Day Internet and Social Media Shutdown

Pakistan Press Foundation

On March 5, the Sindh High Court (SHC) called upon the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Federal Ministry of Interior to submit their responses regarding the petitions filed against the suspension of internet and cellular phone services during the general elections on February 8, and the ongoing ban on the social media platform X, previously known as Twitter.

During the session, the bench led by Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi pressed the PTA for explanations behind the communication blackout on the day of the elections. The PTA’s counsel disclosed that the suspension was executed at the behest of the Ministry of Interior and other security agencies, citing security concerns, with a directive to resume services on February 9.

The court expressed concern over the detrimental impact of such suspensions on public interest and the country’s operational framework, noting the absence of formal replies from the PTA and government authorities regarding the election-day service halt.

The division bench criticized the approach of managing social media platforms and indicated that those responsible for these disruptions would eventually be identified. In response to the submissions, the petitioner’s counsel, Jibran Nasir, argued for clarity on the authority under which social media site X was specifically targeted, stressing the issue’s relevance to national security.

The court acknowledged that while internet service might be justifiably restricted in particular areas due to security threats, a blanket suspension across the country is unjustifiable. It also questioned the continued inaccessibility of social media site X and sought details of actions taken against non-compliant entities.

Separately, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on March 5 issued notices to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication and the PTA in response to a petition challenging the ban on social media platform X. The petition was filed on March 4 by Islamabad resident Ehtisham Abbasi, naming the information ministry and PTA as respondents. Abbasi urges the IHC to order the immediate lifting of the ban on X “in the interest of justice.”

X continues to be disrupted in Pakistan since February 17. The outage coincides with restrictions imposed on virtual private networks (VPNs), further limiting access to social media platforms in the country.

In its previous directions, the SHC mandated the PTA to prevent further disruptions or slowdowns of internet service without legitimate and communicated reasons. It warned that failure to provide valid explanations for ongoing or future suspensions would lead to negative inferences against the concerned authorities.

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