Pakistan’s Caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz on Tuesday indicated about the possible suspension of the internet access in case of security issues in any area on the day of elections which is February 8, while Amnesty International called for uninterrupted internet access in Pakistan during the polling process, Pakistan-based Dawn reported.
Ejah said that Pakistan’s caretaker government will consider suspending the internet service on February 8 only if it receives a request from a district or province considering the security situation. He made the remarks while addressing a press conference along with Pakistan’s Caretaker Information Minister, Murtaza Solangi, in Islamabad.
He said that Pakistan’s caretaker government had so far not taken any decision regarding suspension of internet access on election day and added that any such decision will only be made after the request from a province or district concerned, according to Dawn report.
He said, “Before taking any such decision for a specific area, the government would look into the nature of the threat as it is necessary to block the online communication of terrorists.”
Earlier on February 5, Solangi ruled out the possibility of an internet shutdown on election day. He said that local administrations had the authority to make such a decision considering the law and order situation and no such situation had so far been reported.
Meanwhile, Balochistan’s Caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai said that the internet service will remain temporarily restricted in the sensitive polling booths in the province on the election day, according to Dawn report.
Amid a controversy over the plan to use the new Election Management System (EMS) in the elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had announced that the system will work offline even in case of disruption in internet access.
Human rights group Amnesty International has written an open letter urging Pakistan authorities to guarantee uninterrupted internet access for everyone throughout the polling process, Dawn reported.
In the letter, Amnesty International stated, “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 Mr Anwaar-ul-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.”
Amnesty International noted that as the people of Pakistan prepare to vote, authorities must adopt and prioritise measures that advance human rights by enabling unrestricted access to information and avenues for freedom of expression, assembly, and association–both offline and online.” According to Dawn report, the organisation said, “This will also contribute to an inclusive, free, and fair election process.”