As Pakistan heads to the polls on 8 February, authorities must guarantee uninterrupted access to the internet and digital communication platforms for everyone across the country.
Through an open letter, Access Now, the #KeepItOn coalition, and organisations from around the globe are calling on the Caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, and Chief Election Commissioner, Sikandar Sultan Raja, to ensure people across the country, including those in Balochistan, have full access to the internet and social media platforms for the upcoming elections.
Pakistani authorities have already imposed multiple shutdowns that disrupted opposition activities during this election cycle. At least 11 internet shutdowns were imposed during the last election year of 2018, and the authoritarian use of shutdowns has only emboldened through 2022, 2023, and now 2024. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) statement, attributing an internet shutdown to ongoing system upgrades, which are likely to continue for the next “two to three months,” raises further red flags.
The PTA must honour its commitment to ensure continuous internet services throughout the polls. Furthermore, authorities across Pakistan, including those in Balochistan, must uphold the Sindh High Court’s directive to provide uninterrupted internet service across the country throughout the elections.
Transparency and accountability are essential as Pakistan prepares to form a representative government — this cannot be achieved if it leaves its people disconnected. Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition urge authorities to publicly commit to an open and secure internet to the people of Pakistan.