As Pakistan gears up for its upcoming general elections on February 8, 2024, the issue of uninterrupted internet access has taken center stage.
The Sindh High Court (SHC) has recently issued a landmark directive that mandates continuous internet access for all citizens until the conclusion of the elections.
This directive comes in response to recurrent internet disruptions in the country and aims to uphold citizens’ rights during this critical period.
The SHC’s Significant Directive
In a move that emphasizes the importance of digital access during elections, the Sindh High Court issued an order explicitly prohibiting the suspension of internet services by authorities.
This directive sets a crucial precedent by recognizing uninterrupted internet access as a fundamental right for citizens. Furthermore, the court has called upon relevant parties to present their responses by January 29, highlighting the urgency of the matter.
Advocate Jibran Nasir’s Petition
The impetus behind this directive was a petition filed by Advocate Jibran Nasir, a dedicated human rights activist. His petition addressed the recurring issue of internet service suspensions within Pakistan, particularly during election periods.
Nasir’s efforts to champion this cause have now culminated in a significant legal victory that safeguards citizens’ digital rights.
Challenges Faced by Internet Users
In recent days, as political campaigns gain momentum in anticipation of the general elections, internet users in Pakistan have encountered multiple instances of service disruptions.
On January 20th, a widespread outage affected social media platforms. This incident followed a similar disruption just a week prior, which was attributed to a “technical fault” within the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s optic fiber network.
Addressing Targeted Outages
Advocate Jibran Nasir has pointed out that these internet outages appear to be targeted at censoring certain political parties, notably the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), during their election campaigns.
This directive from the SHC aims to ensure a level playing field for all political parties and underscores the importance of unhindered access to information and communication platforms during the electoral process.
This directive is a significant step toward safeguarding citizens’ rights to access information and communicate freely, especially during critical events like general elections.
As Pakistan continues its journey toward democratic governance, ensuring uninterrupted internet access becomes pivotal in upholding the principles of transparency and fairness in the electoral process.