The caretaker information minister of Balochistan province Jan Achakzai said internet service will remain temporarily restricted in the sensitive polling booths in the province on February 8. Balochistan has seen a surge in terrorism following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and also due to the economic and political instability that Pakistan is experiencing.
The decision was taken because of the possibility of terrorist attack and activities during polling on February 8. “Ensuring the safety and security of ordinary citizens is of utmost importance, as there is a concern that terrorists may exploit social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and other similar channels for communication purposes,” Achakjai said.
He said authorities fear terrorists may use social media platforms to communicate and coordinate. Turbat, Mach and Chaman – three areas which recently witnessed terrorist attacks will see internet access restricted.
Balochistan witnessed a spike in terrorist attacks with miscreants attacking political parties and their election rallies.
Some candidates speaking to GeoNews expressed their displeasure with the decision. Independent candidates who are running for the elections with scant resources depend on social media platforms to spread their message but the order has hit them hard.
Lawyer Jibran Nasir, a contender from Karachi, took the government to court over the social media shutdowns last week over the internet shutdowns. “It is a direct attack on the freedom of expression of all Pakistanis regardless of what part of the political spectrum they belong to. I primarily rely on social media because, given the inflation, it is virtually impossible to run a fully-fledged campaign within the budget limits,” Nasir told news agency AFP.
Security across Pakistan has been heightened as February 8 nears. Law enforcement officials have been deployed across the country to ensure the law and order situation for the national-level polls.
However, consecutive incidents of violence that resulted in multiple deaths ahead of the elections combined with the precarious financial and political situation have contributed to concerns among citizens regarding the possibility of a healthy election.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja ruled out any possibility of communications and internet service outages on the polling day last week and Sindh caretaker minister said that there has been no decision on suspending the internet and communication services in the province on February 8.
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Location: Islamabad, Pakistan
first published: February 05, 2024, 13:52 IST
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