ISLAMABAD: Mobile services were briefly suspended in parts of Islamabad and Rawalpindi in the wake of military parade on March 23.
March 23 is commemorated as ‘Pakistan Day’ for the passing of Lahore Resolution in 1940 that became the basis of an independent Pakistan. A national holiday is also observed on this day.
According to the residents Digital Rights Monitor talked to, services remained suspended for a few hours from around 8 AM to 12 PM.
Earlier, Islamabad experienced partial network shutdown here on Thursday, March 21 owing to military parade rehearsals for March 23.
According to a number of people Digital Rights Monitor talked to, cellular services remained suspended in different areas including E-11, F-11, F-5 and G-5. Even residents living in periphery areas including Bani Gala and Barakahu are facing mobile service outages. It is not clear for how long the service remained suspended. According to the residents DRM talked to, services remained unavailable from as early as 8 AM. However, they were restored around 12 PM.
No public intimation was given by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, PTA, regarding the shutdown. PTA often suspends cellular services as part of the security measures.
Last year, mobile phone services were suspended on March 21 and also on March 23 for four hours.
Also, the Islamabad High Court declared arbitrary network shutdowns illegal in February 2018, but the federal government got a stay on the decision through an intra-court appeal in March just before March 23 Parade celebrations. Since then, it has suspended cellular services on numerous occasions citing security concerns including on Pakistan Day (23 March), July 13th on the arrival of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore, September 06 in Rawalpindi/Islamabad owing to Defence day celebrations and also during Ashura processions.
Human rights activists around the world believe cellular network shutdowns disrupt the routine lives of citizens by limiting their means to communicate and making them unable to contact their family and friends especially in the case of emergencies. Telecom operators and digital services dependent on mobile Internet for their service delivery also lose out on millions of rupees in revenue.
Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.