Home Election No directives yet to suspend mobile, internet services on election day: Solangi

No directives yet to suspend mobile, internet services on election day: Solangi

7 min read

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said on Tuesday that the government has no directives yet to suspend mobile and internet services on election day.

Emphasising the gravity of the security situation, Solangi maintained that no such directives have been passed yet and underscored the authority of local administrations to assess security conditions and make decisions accordingly, particularly in areas experiencing a deterioration in security.

Solangi revealed that the Ministry of Information has taken steps to facilitate local and foreign journalists and observers. An online helpline has been established to provide assistance and support to media professionals and observers, he added.

Furthermore, the interim minister acknowledged that while extraordinary situations necessitate extraordinary solutions, the current circumstances do not warrant such measures.

He drew attention to the proliferation of fake news, and propaganda on social media platforms, highlighting the severity of the security challenges. Despite these challenges, he affirmed that Pakistan remains resolute in its commitment to combat terrorism.

The information minister also provided insights into the scenario following the takeover of Kabul by the interim Taliban government. He noted an increase in operations against various terrorist groups within Pakistan and added that over the past year, there have been approximately 1,500 incidents of terrorism, necessitating an increased focus on counter-terrorism efforts.

‘Vote honestly’

Caretaker Interior Minister Gauhar Ejaz urged the nation to vote ‘honestly’ on February 8, and added that the country’s reputed media has a significant role to play as it has the trust of 250 million people.

Gauhar urged Pakistanis to use the power of their vote ‘wisely’ as he mentioned the efforts undertaken by the interim government to ensure timely elections.

Speaking to the media alongside the caretaker information minister, Gauhar reiterated that until now there had been no directives to suspend internet service on polling day. He added that any such action will only be taken upon a request from a province or district.

“The Constitution says the country will be run by its elected representatives,” said Gauhar.

The minister said seven to eight security personnel will be deployed at each polling station, along with CCTV cameras installed at those declared sensitive. He added that thousands of police personnel will be deployed across the nation to ensure security on election day.

Gauhar also assured of a peaceful electoral process, stating that more than 0.65 million federal and provincial security personnel will be deployed.

“All the CCTV cameras have been installed by us, we have 90,777 polling stations, 40,000 polling stations are normal but security is also deployed here. more than 16,000 polling stations are highly sensitive, while the federal government has marked 135 polling stations sensitive,” the minister said.

Earlier on January 22, the caretaker government blamed “technical issues” for the internet outages across the country, saying that there was no guarantee that such incidents would not occur in the future.

The interim information minister said one could wish that internet outages did not take place but there was no guarantee of that. Further, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said the internet was disrupted due to a “technical fault”.

To a question regarding internet outages and whether the government would resolve to prevent such instances during the February 8 general elections, Solangi said: “As per my information, the reasons [for disruptions] are technical and there are some matters of system installations involved as well.”

PTA DG Pirzada attributed the outages to “technical glitches” and system upgradation, saying: “You can face this for the next two to three months.”

Moreover, the Sindh High Court (SHC) on January 24 restrained the relevant authorities from suspending internet services till the general elections

SHC ordered the interim federal government and PTA to ensure uninterrupted internet services till polling day.

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

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 internet suspensions coincided with the PTI’s virtual events and the party recently moved the top court against them, asking it to take notice of the disruption of popular social media platforms including X, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.