‘Guarantee continuous Internet connectivity’: Directive from the Sindh High Court in response to Jibran Nasir’s plea

On Wednesday, the Sindh High Court (SHC) issued a directive, directing the government and the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to guarantee continuous internet access until February 8, the scheduled date for the general elections in the country. The order was issued by a two-member bench led by SHC Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi, in response to a petition filed by lawyer and independent candidate Jibran Nasir. The petition addressed recent “unconstitutional” internet outages experienced nationwide in the past month.

Jibran Nasir announced on X (formerly Twitter), “SHC has directed PTA and Govt to ensure smooth uninterrupted access to the Internet till Election Day 8th Feb to ensure no further pre-poll rigging happens and any rigging attempts on Election Day can also be reported through social media.”

Nasir emphasized that the interruptions were not only affecting the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) from participating in free and fair elections but were also hindering independent candidates like himself, as the internet and social media are crucial platforms for reaching voters.

Notably, three nationwide disruptions occurred on December 17, January 7, and January 20, coinciding with virtual events organized by the PTI on social media platforms. The PTI had approached the Supreme Court, urging it to take notice of the suspension of internet services and the blocking of social media websites.

Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi, in a press conference, attributed the outages to “technical” issues and system installations, stating that there was “no guarantee” such incidents wouldn’t occur in the future.

In Nasir’s petition, the PTA, federal government, and the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications were named as respondents. Nasir argued for the declaration of the act of shutting down mobile internet and broadband services as “unconstitutional, illegal, disproportionate, unreasonable, and without lawful authority.”

The plea sought the immediate restoration of access to social media platforms and the suspension of any directives restricting access to social media until the conclusion of the general elections.

In response to the petition, the SHC issued notices to the respondents and directed authorities to ensure uninterrupted internet access until the general elections on February 8. The hearing has been adjourned until January 29.

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