September 19, 2018

#KeepItOn: Media Matters for Democracy expresses concern over another network shutdown, the first after the IHC order that declared arbitrary shutdowns illegal

Media Matters for Democracy expresses grave concern on government’s move to shut down mobile phone services in parts of Islamabad and Rawalpindi on the 21st of March, 2018. 

The services are suspended in the wake of national events to avert possible law and order situations, however, there is no substantive evidence available to link network shutdowns with successfully countering acts of terrorism.

Earlier this month, Islamabad High Court had declared network shutdown illegal in Pakistan but the government challenged the decision in front of a Higher Bench and was successful in getting a stay order over the previous decision.

The ‘interim’ stay was granted till the first week of May on 20th March 2018.

As soon as the stay was granted, mobile phone services were suspended in parts of Islamabad and Rawalpindi for a few hours on 21st March, apparently as part of the full-dress rehearsals for the Pakistan Day parade to be held on 23rd March. The day is commemorated as ‘Pakistan Day’ for the passing of Lahore Resolution in 1940, that became the basis of an independent Pakistan. A national holiday is also observed on this day.

Sadly, no public notice was issued by the government or by cellular companies about the network shutdown.

It is still unknown whether the government is planning to suspend mobile phone services on 23rd March as well, however, it is feared that the citizens of Islamabad and Rawalpindi might once again be rendered unable to communicate, as has been the case in the past.

Media Matters for Democracy believes that such arbitrary cellular network shutdowns are a gross violation of fundamental human rights. Not only that they disrupt economic activities but also hamper the daily working of the citizens.

We urge the government to respect people’s inviolable right to communicate and refrain from shutting down the mobile phone service while taking all possible means to thwart any untoward incident.

Lastly, we express resolve to fight the legal battle to the hilt against these arbitrary mobile service suspensions and appeal the citizens to support us in this cause.

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