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Amnesty slams Pakistan’s internet shutdown as ‘blunt attack on people’s rights’

KARACHI: Amnesty International has slammed the internet shutdown and suspension of the cellular service on election day in Pakistan as a “reckless attack on people’s rights”.

“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,” Livia Saccardi, Interim Deputy Director for South Asia at Amnesty International, said in a post on the micro-blogging site “X”, formerly called Twitter.

“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,” Saccardi added.

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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. “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,” Saccardi stated.

“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.”

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Meanwhile, Access Now, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and the #KeepItOn coalition also strongly condemn the caretaker government’s suspension of mobile services across the country, and demanded that full internet access be reinstated immediately.

“With millions of people in Pakistan relying on the internet for essential information needed to cast their vote, the government’s disproportionate action jeopardises democracy. People’s right to freely and fairly choose their elected representatives must be safeguarded,” it said in a statement.






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