PTI asks SC to take notice of Sunday’s internet disruption

Published January 9, 2024
A man shows the social media app of the official site of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) party, as a massive national and global telethon to launch the PTI manifesto and raise campaign funds is launnched, in Islamabad on January 7, 2024. — AFP
A man shows the social media app of the official site of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) party, as a massive national and global telethon to launch the PTI manifesto and raise campaign funds is launnched, in Islamabad on January 7, 2024. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has urged the Supreme Court to take notice of the suspension of internet service and blockage of social media websites during the party’s fundraising telethon on Sunday.

Telecom operators have also expres­sed concern over frequent internet outages “on political grounds”.

In a statement, the PTI spokesperson alleged that 240 million people were deprived of their basic rights by the suspension, which also resulted in financial losses for the country.

“It is unfortunate that a political party is not being allowed to hold political activities. It is illegal to disturb digital activities and sabotage the electoral campaign,” the party spokesperson said.

“Such tactics cannot distance the people and PTI,” the spokesperson said, and demanded the Supreme Court hold accountable those “who became the reason for financial losses to the country”.

However, despite internet suspension, the party claimed to have raised tens of millions of rupees through donations. “After realising that the PTI has be­­c­ome the most popular political party in Pakistan, efforts are being made to turn the party’s victory into a defeat by political engineering and use of state power.”

Telecom operators lament losses due to digital blackout on ‘political grounds’

Sunday was the second time in recent months that internet services were disrupted as the PTI planned to host an on­­line event. On Dec 17, the party organised a virtual power show, which also suffered due to a disruption in internet services.

The Telecom Operators Association (TOA) has written a letter to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) ex­­pressing concerns over the regular internet throttling “on political grounds”.

The letter by the TOA — an association of cellular mobile and fixed line operators — said the internet was apparently throttled on Sunday, leading to a degradation in user experience.

The impediments in access to digital and social media platforms and websites “was creating more harm than good in the long run”, said the TOA’s letter addressed to PTA Chairman retired Maj Gen Hafeezur Rehman.

TOA has requested the regulator to look into the matter and ensure that such disruptions do not take place in the future. “It is also our request that PTA issues a detailed clarification statement on what transpired and how it plans to prevent it from reoccurring in the future.”

The TOA added that the telecom sector supports the government’s initiatives to internationally position Pakistan as a key Information and communication te­­chnologies (ICT) hub to grow IT exports, attract foreign direct investment, and fast-track digital transformation.

However, censorship measures, “like the ones that were undertaken Sunday evening,” will severely undermine the government’s ICT-related growth ambitions and adversely impact Pakistan’s image internationally.

“[On Sunday], the websites and helplines of telecom operators were inundated with customers trying to find out what was going on,” the letter stated, adding that the operators had “no real answer”, further exacerbating consumers’ outcry and dissatisfaction.

In the current age, impediments in access to digital social media platforms or websites “were attempts in vain”.

Digital connectivity is a vital lifeline, and when severed, it impacts people, bu­­sinesses, and overall productivity and tarnishes the country’s image, TOA added.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2024

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