A joint petition against the recurring problem of mobile network suspension in Islamabad was recently brought forward. Four people, residents of the capital, submitted the petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC). The petitioners are counselled by Umer Gilani.
Details of the Petition
The petition urges the court to declare the suspension of telecom network services as illegal. The petitioners claim that frequent network suspensions have badly affected their daily lives. They have cited the last ten days of March and the actions of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) over this period.
The respondents listed in the petition are the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications secretary, and chief executive officers (CEOs) of three major telecom service providers.
Umer Gilani said the Masooma Hassa, the leading petitioner, is a professional who commutes daily between Islamabad and Rawalpindi for work-related matters. The counsellor said “While she is at work, the mobile phone is her only means of communication with her seven-year-old daughter.”
When presenting Waqar Ahmed’s (another petitioner) case, Gilani said that he unable to talk to his wife and parents living in a mountainous region in Kaghan Valley if the phone service is suspended.
Similarly, Muhammad Zohaid and Ahmed Raza, the remaining two petitioners, are also looking for the court’s assistance in the matter. Citizens face a lot of difficulties when networks are down and there is almost no way to communicate with anybody across the country.
The petitioners say that the network suspension affects their daily and personal lives. It is also a cause of putting the whole city in a state of emergency.
Had anyone faced medical or other emergencies during the time their phones were suspended, lives could have been lost. – A petitioner
They claim that temporary suspension of network services is unconstitutional as its violates a fundamental right to telecommunication, derived from articles 4, 9, 10-A, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 19-A of the constitution. The petitioners allege that PTA is also in violation of Section 54(3) of the Pakistan Telecommunications (Reorganization) Act, 1996. The aforementioned section states that mobile service can only be suspended when the President declares emergency in the country.
Gilani says that nothing can be done to prevent the dependence of people on the network providers,. However, the government and law enforcement agencies can make use of jammers in the danger zones to prevent a citywide network blackout. He said such technologies are currently being used in the superior courts. Telecommunication can be considered as a fundamental right thus, shutting it down causes adverse effects on the public’s daily life.
Recently, mobile phone services are being shut down more frequently. The networks were down during Muharram, Rabi-ul-Awal, Pakistan Day and its rehearsal day, Mumtaz Qadri’s funeral and the ensuing chehlum and the protest which followed. Before that, the mobile signals were turned off on Friday afternoons.