Pakistan assures no internet shutdown during elections


Pakistan is holding its general elections on February 8, 2024, amid tight security and high expectations. The country’s telecom authority has clarified that there will be no internet shutdown on the polling day, despite some rumours and concerns. The authority said it had not received any instructions from the government to block internet services and that they would remain functional throughout the voting process.

Internet access is crucial for free and fair elections

Internet access is crucial for free and fair elections, as it enables voters to access information, express their opinions, and monitor the electoral process. Many civil society groups, including Amnesty International, have urged the Pakistani authorities to guarantee uninterrupted access to the internet and digital communication platforms for everyone across the country during the elections.

Amnesty International said in an open letter that the authorities must adopt and prioritise measures that advanced rights by enabling unrestricted access to information and avenues for freedom of expression, assembly, and association – both offline and online. The letter was signed by over 300 organisations from 105 countries, who are part of the #KeepItOn coalition, a global network working to end internet shutdowns.

Internet shutdowns are a common practice in Pakistan

Internet shutdowns are a common practice in Pakistan, especially in times of political unrest, security threats, or religious sensitivities. According to the internet shutdown tracker by Access Now, Pakistan has experienced 31 internet shutdowns since 2016, affecting millions of people and violating their human rights.

shutdown during elections

The most recent internet shutdown in Pakistan occurred on January 3, 2024, when the authorities suspended mobile internet services in parts of Balochistan province, citing security reasons. The shutdown lasted for more than a week and affected the communication and livelihoods of the residents.

Internet shutdowns have negative impacts on society and economy

Internet shutdowns have negative impacts on society and economy, as they disrupt the flow of information, communication, education, health, business, and emergency services. According to a report by Top10VPN, a digital privacy group, internet shutdowns cost the global economy $4.01 billion in 2019, with Pakistan losing $116.1 million due to 12 shutdowns that year.

Internet shutdowns also undermine the trust and confidence of the public in the government and the electoral process, as they create an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, and suspicion. Internet shutdowns can also facilitate electoral fraud, violence, and human rights violations, as they hamper the transparency and accountability of the authorities and the media.

Pakistan hopes for a peaceful and democratic transition of power

Pakistan hopes for a peaceful and democratic transition of power, as it faces multiple challenges such as economic crisis, security threats, political instability, and social divisions. The elections are expected to be a close contest between the ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, and the opposition alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The elections are being held under a caretaker government, headed by Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, and supervised by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja. The ECP has deployed over 1.2 million security personnel, including army, police, and paramilitary forces, to ensure the safety and security of the voters, candidates, and polling staff.

The ECP has also introduced several measures to improve the electoral process, such as biometric verification, electronic voting machines, postal ballots, and special voting arrangements for women, minorities, and persons with disabilities. The ECP has also invited international and domestic observers to monitor the elections and ensure their credibility and legitimacy.


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