Mobile phone services briefly suspended in parts of Rawalpindi/Islamabad, restored after four hours

ISLAMABAD, March 23, 2018: Residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad faced another mobile service suspension today for four hours, according to local sources.

As per detail, the cellular services remained suspended during 8 AM-12 PM in wake of military parade at Parade Ground, Islamabad as part of March 23 celebrations.

March 23 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.

According to local sources, there were no mobile phone services in areas including I-8, G-7, F-8, F-11, Khanna Pull and Faizabad.

Cellular services were also suspended in Rawalpindi/Islamabad briefly on March 21 as part of March 23 parade rehearsals.

It is important to note that the latest cellular network shutdowns took place after Islamabad High Court, IHC, allowed the government to block the mobile phone services for security reasons through an “interim” stay.

The stay was granted after Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, PTA, and Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom, MOITT, filed an intra-court appeal with the IHC divisional bench headed by Justice Ammar Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiani on March 17, 2018.

Earlier on February 26, 2018, IHC’s single bench headed by Justice Athar Minullah declared cellular network shutdown illegal.The decision was given in response to petitions filed in 2016 by four residents against government’s cellular network shutdowns. The petitioners had taken the plea that on and off suspension of mobile phone service was a violation of their fundamental rights.

However less than a week before March 23 parade PTA and MOITT filed an appeal before the appellate bench on March 17, 2018 against the aforementioned decision. The bench conducted preliminary hearings on March 19-20, 2018.

After hearing the arguments of the government counsels, the bench granted an “interim” stay on March 20 till the first week of May.  Express Tribune reported: “….the bench suspended the single bench’s order till the first week of May. Calling the suspension order ‘interim’, the bench said it would be vacated in the first week of May unless the court issued directives in this regard.”

Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.

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