Global Advocates Call for Open Internet During Pakistan Elections

In light of the upcoming general elections on February 8, 2024, an appeal for open internet access throughout Pakistan has been made by Amnesty International and a coalition of over 300 organizations globally. Despite hints of potential selective internet service suspensions by the Pakistani government due to law and order concerns, as indicated by Caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz, human rights organizations are emphasizing the need for uninterrupted internet services to ensure a fair and transparent election process.

Of the nearly 91,000 polling stations in Pakistan, a fraction has been deemed sensitive or most sensitive, raising concerns about whether local authorities will suspend mobile and internet services. However, no formal directives have been issued for such suspensions. The interior minister acknowledged that local administrations hold the authority to shut down services if necessary, especially in locations where security might be compromised.

This situation first garnered attention when the caretaker Information Minister of Balochistan mentioned that internet services might be restricted in certain sensitive polling areas within the province on election day. The global #KeepItOn coalition, along with the Asia programme of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ Asia), has issued letters to Prime Minister Mr. Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar and Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, urging them to commit to ensuring open and unrestricted internet access. This internet access is deemed crucial for communication and information exchange, facilitating a transparent electoral process, a hallmark of democratic practices.

**Summary:** Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and a worldwide coalition, have appealed to Pakistani authorities to ensure open internet access during the country’s general elections to support transparency and democratic processes. The government has mentioned possible internet suspensions for security reasons but has made no definitive decisions. The call underscores the tension between maintaining security and upholding freedom of information.

FAQ Section

Q: What is the significance of the general elections in Pakistan?
A: The general elections, set for February 8, 2024, are significant as they determine the democratic governmental leadership of Pakistan. Ensuring transparency and fairness during this process is crucial for the integrity of the elections.

Q: Why is there concern over internet access in Pakistan during the elections?
A: Concerns have arisen due to hints from the government of potential selective internet service suspensions in sensitive areas, ostensibly for law and order concerns. Human rights organizations believe that uninterrupted internet access is vital for a fair and transparent election process.

Q: Which organizations have made an appeal for open internet access?
A: Amnesty International and a global coalition of over 300 organizations have appealed for open internet access throughout Pakistan during the elections. This includes groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia program (CPJ Asia).

Q: What authority do local administrations in Pakistan have regarding internet services during elections?
A: The Caretaker Interior Minister has indicated that local administrations hold the authority to shut down internet and mobile services if deemed necessary for security reasons.

Q: What is the #KeepItOn coalition?
A: The #KeepItOn coalition is a global network advocating against the shutdown of internet access. They have sent letters to Pakistani officials calling for a commitment to open internet access for the upcoming elections.

Definitions:
General Elections: A democratic process in which a country’s population elects members to the legislative government.
Caretaker Government: A temporary government in place during the period of an election campaign until the new government is formed.
Amnesty International: A global human rights organization that campaigns against abuses of human rights.
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ): An independent organization that promotes press freedom worldwide and defends the rights of journalists.

Related Links:
Amnesty International
Committee to Protect Journalists