Pakistan reportedly suspended mobile internet services across the country on Thursday, just before voting began in a contentious general election, ostensibly for security reasons.
According to media reports, internet and mobile phone services were cut off shortly before voting began on Thursday morning. The internet outage was later confirmed by internet monitoring company Netblocks.
According to the Internet Society’s Pulse website, which tracks internet shutdowns around the world, internet traffic for mobile operators Mobilink (Jazz), Telenor Pakistan, and CMPak (Zong) was between 1:45 and 2:30 UTC. It is said that the number decreased significantly between then and started to return around 3:00 p.m. UTC according to Cloudflare Radar data.
Fixed broadband service was still available in Islamabad, but most people in Pakistan use mobile phones for internet services, Nikkei Asia reported.
The internet shutdown comes despite the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) assuring on Wednesday that internet services would continue to function normally on election day and that the government had not issued any instructions to shut down services. Ta.
However, the Ministry of Interior announced on Thursday that it had restricted mobile access, citing the deteriorating security situation in the country. On Wednesday, two bombs exploded outside a candidate’s office in Balochistan, killing at least 28 people.
The Home Office has a history of shutting down internet services in response to terrorist threats and civil unrest. It also recently suspended services to prevent online rallies held by the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan.
The PTI and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) say authorities are cutting off access to the internet as a tactic to manipulate election results in favor of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). I’m blaming.
Critics say internet access will make it easier for voters to find their polling stations, book transportation to get there, report irregularities to the Election Commission of Pakistan, and share information with other voters. Internet access is critical to free and fair elections. PTI also relies heavily on social media to communicate with its supporters.
“Despite reassurances to the contrary from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the Election Commission of Pakistan, unwarranted restrictions on the dissemination of information violate people’s human rights at this critical time in Pakistan,” Amnesty International said. said Livia Saccardi, interim deputy director for South Asia. International announced in a statement. “A total shutdown will affect people’s movement, livelihood and ability to survive difficult times, further eroding trust in authorities.”
Deliberate internet shutdowns by government authorities on a local, regional, or national basis have become more common in recent years, typically for the purpose of suppressing civil unrest, combating misinformation, or protecting national security. This is in the name of protection.
Pulse said it recorded 124 incidents in 18 countries in 2023 in which governments or other actors “deliberately disrupted internet connectivity or blocked citizens’ access to certain internet services.” Ta. The confusion may last from a few hours to a week.
This practice is controversial not only because of freedom of information issues, but also because of its impact on people’s lives, especially as many countries strive to establish digital economies.
Internet shutdowns also affect economic productivity. Pulse reports that in Pakistan alone, the four-day internet shutdown in May 2023 after Imran Khan’s arrest cost the nation about $17 million in gross domestic product (GDP) revenue.