Caretaker govt rules out internet shutdown on February 8

“Extraordinary situations required extraordinary measures,” says info minister while terming security threats as “serious issue”

A man explores social media on a computer at an internet club in Islamabad, Pakistan. — Reuters/File
A man explores social media on a computer at an internet club in Islamabad, Pakistan. — Reuters/File
  • Extraordinary situations required extraordinary measures: Solangi.
  • Stresses caretaker government has no “favourites” in elections.
  • Reiterates commitment to ensure level-playing field for all parties.

Caretaker Minister for Information Murtaza Solangi Monday turned down the possibility of an internet shutdown on February 8 with more than 128 million voters expected to exercise their fundamental right to elect their representatives.

Speaking on a private news channel, Solangi acknowledged that local administrations have the authority to decide on internet shutdown in light of the law and order situation, however, he stressed that no such situation has so far been reported.

His remarks come as the country has witnessed multiple internet disruptions in the run-up to the upcoming general elections, most notably on December 7 and 17, and then again later on January 20 last month.

The government’s failure to disclose specific reasons for these internet disruptions, except for the one on January 20 which was termed a “technical fault” by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), has given way to concerns regarding possible internet shutdown on the poll day.

On Sunday, caretaker Balochistan Information Minister Jan Achakzai announced that the internet service will remain temporarily restricted in the sensitive polling booths in the province on election day.

“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,” Achakzai said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja also rejected any possibility of communications and internet services outage on February 8.

“No proposal for internet shutdown on election day is under consideration,” Raja said after the ECP held a comprehensive meeting over the security arrangements and measures in the wake of terrorist attacks targeting electioneering activities.

Elaborating on such prospects, the minister termed security threats as a “serious issue”, adding that extraordinary situations required extraordinary measures.

On the issue of election delay, Solangi turned down any such possibility stressing that throughout the country’s history, there have been occasions when polls were held in harsh and difficult conditions.

To another query, he said that the caretaker government had no favourites in the elections while further reiterating the interim setup’s commitment to ensuring a level playing field for all political parties.

With additional input from APP

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