International organisations urge Pakistan government to guarantee 'uninterrupted' access to Internet

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Islamabad, Feb 6 (PTI) Amnesty International on Tuesday urged authorities to guarantee “uninterrupted access” to the Internet for everyone across Pakistan throughout the polling process as the caretaker government said it may selectively suspend services if requested by a district or province due to law and order situation.

Pakistan’s Caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz on Tuesday hinted that the government may selectively suspend the internet services on February 8 if requested by a district or province due to the law and order situation.

"So far, there has been no decision made regarding the suspension of internet services at any place," said the minister, but added that “any such action will only be taken upon a request from a province or district”.

The London-based non-governmental organisation in an open letter said: “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.” CPJ Asia, the Asia programme of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said on X: "Ahead of Thursday's elections, CPJ and our partners including @accessnow in the #KeepItOn coalition have written to Pakistan’s government, calling for unfettered access to the internet and social media platforms." Ejaz said that there are 90,777 polling stations across the country of which over 40,000 have been declared normal. Meanwhile, 20,985 polling stations have been declared sensitive and 16,766 have been declared most sensitive.

Solangi said that the government has no directives yet to suspend mobile and internet services on election day but also clarified that local administrations have the authority to make decisions accordingly, particularly in areas experiencing a deterioration in security.

The possibility of an internet shutdown for the first time came up on Sunday when caretaker Balochistan Information Minister Jan Achakzai announced that the internet service would remain temporarily restricted in the sensitive polling booths in the province on the day of elections. PTI SH PY PY PY

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