Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) takes strong exception to the closure of mobile connectivity and data services on election day across Pakistan that have cast doubts on the credibility of the entire election and raise questions about the government’s motives for leaving citizens in the dark.
Authorities stated that cell phone services had been suspended due to security reasons. However, the suspension stayed in place for hours after the end of polling at 5pm. A “lack of communication” was also blamed for the delay in results.
Ensuring connectivity of citizens particularly on a day as significant as a general election is an essential element of ensuring their right to information and freedom to access information. While certain localized suspension of mobile services due to security were plausible, a complete shutdown that extended well beyond the close of polls, raises concerns about the heavy handedness of the state when it comes to restricting communication. It also brings into questions the publicized narrative shared by the caretaker government for the closure.
Days ahead of the election, the caretaker government had said that internet services would only be suspended if they received a request from local authorities due to security, Dawn reported. While the internet remained open, on the morning of February 8, mobile services including internet data were suspended and remained closed for many hours after polling completed.
This move drew the ire of political parties, civil society and was raised as a point of concern about the elections internationally.
In the lead up to the general elections, the country has also seen multiple disruptions in internet access. Recurrent disruptions to access social media were observed in December and January. While there was no official confirmation about the cause of the disruption, they took place when the Pakistan Tehreek i Insaf was hosting virtual events.
It is incumbent on the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and other relevant state authorities to provide more clarity on the process of suspension of mobile services or internet services, which appear to be a repeat tactic implemented in the country.
The post PPF takes strong exception to closure of mobile services on election day that cast doubt on the entire process, raise questions about government’s motive first appeared on Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).