The Ministry of Interior has suspended mobile phone services “temporarily” as polling kicked off across Pakistan today, Thursday.
In a brief statement posted on its X (formerly Twitter) account, the interior ministry cites the “recent terrorist activities” across the country that have “resulted in the loss of precious lives”.
“To maintain the state of peace and safety and to deal with potential [security] threats, protective measures are inevitable,” the ministry says. “Therefore, it has been decided to suspend mobile services temporarily across the country.”
ملک میں دہشت گردی کے حالیہ واقعات کے نتیجے میں قیمتی جانوں کا ضیاع ہوا ہے، امن وامان کی صورتحال کو قائم رکھنے اور ممکنہ خطرات سے نمٹنے کے لیے حفاظتی اقدامات ناگزیر ہیں، اس لیے ملک بھر میں موبائل سروس کو عارضی طور پر معطل کرنے کا فیصلہ کیا گیا ہے۔ ترجمان وزارت داخلہ
— Ministry of Interior GoP (@MOIofficialGoP) February 8, 2024
The disruptions in mobile and internet services have also been confirmed by NetBlocks, which monitors connectivity outages around the world.
⚠️ Update: Real-time network data show that internet blackouts are now in effect in multiple regions of #Pakistan in addition to mobile network disruptions; the incident comes on election day and follows months of digital censorship targeting the political opposition 📉 pic.twitter.com/47Yja44TI9
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) February 8, 2024
At the time of drafting this report, most team members at Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD), based in Islamabad and Karachi, confirmed that their mobile signals were down. A few, however, reported they could access cellular services.
The suspension of mobile services is being roundly condemned on social media by users, digital and human rights activists.
On Tuesday, Gohar Ejaz, the caretaker interior minister, hinted at shutting down internet services on the election day. The minister said action would be taken if it received a request from a district or province under threat, adding that terrorists usually communicate through WhatsApp.
This is a developing story and will be updated as details come in