Ministry told to restore internet facility for tribal areas

Updated 15 Apr 2020

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IHC tells IT ministry to provide internet to 7 tribal districts while hearing an application on the matter. — AFP/File
IHC tells IT ministry to provide internet to 7 tribal districts while hearing an application on the matter. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islam­abad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday directed the Minis­try of Information Techno­logy to reconnect the erstwhile Federally Adminis­tered Tribal Areas (Fata) to the cyberworld, observing that people there could not be denied access to the internet.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah admitted a petition filed by a student, Syed Mohammad, and sought a reply from the IT ministry, Pakistan Telecommunica­tion Authority (PTA) as well as other respondents.

The court directed the respondent authorities to submit a reply by April 20 and adjourned the hearing till then.

Students of different universities hailing from seven tribal districts staged protest demonstrations for over a week against the unavailability of 3G and 4G internet services in the tribal districts due to which their studies are being badly affected amid the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The petitioner in the case is a student belonging to the Parachinar district, which was an agency in the erstwhile Fata. The agency was merged as a district with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The petitioner’s counsel, Abdul Rahim Wazir, argued before the court that the respondents had denied him and the general public the right of access to the internet.

He contended that access to the internet was a constitutionally guaranteed right and an integral part of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution.

The counsel further contended that on account of the lockdown, students were required to have access to the internet. He has, therefore, argued that students and the public of the merged tribal districts could not be denied their constitutionally guaranteed rights by refusing to give access to the internet.

The court directed the respondents to nominate authorised officers to appear before the IHC on the next date of hearing and explain as to why access to the internet has been denied to the petitioner and the general public of the merged tribal districts.

The respondents were also directed to submit a report before the next date of hearing. “In the meanwhile respondents are directed to take appropriate measures to restore the internet 3G/4G facilities in the former Federally Administered Trial Areas”, the court told the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2020