The election has been mired in controversy and allegations of voter fraud, and a fierce battle is expected.
The military has reportedly imposed censorship on coverage of this year’s elections, restricting press freedom. [GETTY]
Millions of people will vote in state and general elections on Thursday, even as global digital rights groups urge governments to ensure unrestricted access to the internet following the historic shutdown. As Pakistan heads to the polls, mobile services have been suspended across the country.
The election has been mired in controversy and allegations of voter fraud in what is expected to be a closely contested vote, following the ouster and jailing of popular former prime minister Imran Khan two years ago.
Members of the #KeepItOn coalition, a global network of more than 300 organizations in 105 countries working to end internet shutdowns, have called on Pakistan’s interim Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar and the election commissioner to He has written an open letter calling for free access to Pakistan. The Internet, Social Media Platforms, and Other Communication Channels.
The #KeepItOn campaign was launched in 2016 by Access Now, an international nonprofit focused on digital civil rights, with the aim of uniting activists around the world to end internet shutdowns.
According to Access Now, opposition parties have been particularly targeted by internet outages during the current election period.Online election campaigns by opposition parties have been suspended. December And last month, the group pointed out:
Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia-Pacific policy director at Access Now, said the internet blackout was a hallmark of “wider democratic backsliding and political turmoil in Pakistan.”
“The decision to impose internet restrictions in Balochistan, just after the Election Commission said the proposal to shut down the internet on polling day was not under consideration, is a shocking example of this,” he said. Ta.
Meanwhile, concerns are growing over possible voter fraud orchestrated by the country’s powerful military, which has ruled for three decades and is widely known for its great influence at all levels of power.
Former Prime Minister Nawal Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Party, which is said to have received support from the military following Mr Khan’s imprisonment, is expected to win the vote.
Newspaper A reports that the military is reportedly censoring coverage of this year’s elections, restricting press freedom.l Jazeera.
The report interviewed Pakistani journalists and found that military officials instructed them not to use the name or brand name of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) or to mention the candidate’s affiliation during interviews. He said he had received a call to do so.
In Pakistan, the world’s fifth most populous country, 128 million voters will go to the polls for national and local elections.
The country is facing a prolonged economic crisis with high inflation rates and a spate of security incidents.
On Wednesday, the day before the vote, two bomb explosions occurred in front of the offices of election candidates, killing 28 people.
According to Access Now, Pakistani authorities have a history of internet blackouts, including in May 2023, when internet connections were cut off during street protests after Khan’s dramatic arrest, and demonstrators were forced to socialize. This includes not being able to share updates on media platforms.
Pakistan’s telecommunications authority, Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, blamed recent internet outages on “ongoing system upgrades” and warned that the outages could last for another two to three months, but this could lead to further Access Now said it was causing concern.
Moreover, the imprisonment of national icon and former PTI leader Khan made the election even more divisive.
Cricket champion Khan is considered one of South Asia’s most popular figures, and his arrest last year on charges of corruption, leaking state secrets and abusing his office as prime minister has been criticized by many supporters. Condemned.
Last week, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison, one day after being sentenced to 10 years in prison for leaking state secrets. Khan denied the allegations and said they were politically motivated.