Following the internet shutdown in Pakistan as the country holds its general elections today, Livia Saccardi, Interim Deputy Director for South Asia at Amnesty International, said:
“The decision to suspend telecommunications and mobile internet services on an election day is a blunt attack on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. It is reckless to impede access to information as people head out to polling stations on the heels of devastating bomb blasts and what has been an intense crackdown on the opposition in the lead up to the elections in the country.
Amnesty International calls on the authorities of Pakistan to adopt a rights-respecting approach and urgently lift all blanket restrictions on access to the internet.Livia Saccardi, Interim Deputy Director for South Asia at Amnesty International
“Unwarranted restrictions on dissemination of information, despite reassurances to the contrary from the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority and Election Commission of Pakistan, are in breach of people’s human rights at this critical time in Pakistan.
“Blanket shutdowns impacts people’s mobility, livelihood and ability to navigate through a difficult time further undermining their trust in authorities. Amnesty International calls on the authorities of Pakistan to adopt a rights-respecting approach and urgently lift all blanket restrictions on access to the internet to enable people’s access to timely information and report on any election-related matter throughout the polling process.”
On 6 February, Amnesty International and other members of the #KeepItOn coalition — a global network of over 300 organisations from 105 countries working to end internet shutdowns — wrote to the caretaker Prime Minister Mr Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar and Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, to ensure unfettered access to the internet, social media platforms, and all other communication channels throughout Pakistan’s general election.
Pakistani authorities have already imposed multiple shutdowns that violated the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, including of opposition leaders and parties, during this election cycle.