Network shutdowns expected in Islamabad and areas of KPK during JUI – F ‘Azadi March’

Image Courtesy: Business Recorded

22 October 2019: Mobile phone services including mobile Internet may face suspension in multiple areas including Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa before and during ‘Azadi March’ led by opposing political party JUI – F.

According to reports, the Government of Pakistan has decided to suspend mobile phone services including the mobile Internet during the ‘Azadi March’. This was revealed by the leading broadcast journalist Shahzeb Khaanzada in his news show ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khaanzada Kay Saath’ on Geo News yesterday. The News also reported on various planned road-blocks and other measures that might adversely affect citizens’ mobility.

Arbitrary suspension of mobile services is a regular occurrence in Pakistan, especially around religious processions and key national events, apparently to avoid potential law and order situations. There is, however, no concrete evidence available to demonstrate the effectiveness of network shutdowns in combating terrorism or any potential law and order situations.

Network shutdowns have also been used as a tool to limit the political mobilisation in political gatherings by various governments in the past, including the 126 days sit-in lead by the now ruling party Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf.

Islamabad High Court, in a judgment in February 2018, declared the arbitrary network shutdowns illegal in Pakistan. The court stated that the federal government cannot give directions for the shutdown of cellular networks without proper prior notification. It termed the suspension of services a violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens of the country. The federal government, however, challenged the decision and was able to acquire an interim stay-order. The case is pending for further hearing.

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