PTA Reveals That Ministry of Interior Ordered Mobile Internet Shutdown on Election Day

Acknowledging the Ministry of Interior’s directives, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) confirmed the issuance of instructions to suspend mobile phone services on February 8, the day of polling.

Presenting its response to a Sindh High Court (SHC) bench on Tuesday, the authority emphasized its obligation to adhere to the interior ministry’s directives, stating that it functioned solely as the implementing agency.

In a separate development, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has issued notices to both the authority and the information ministry in response to a plea challenging the “ban” imposed on the social media platform X.

Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi led a two-judge SHC bench, which was addressing identical petitions lodged against the suspension of mobile internet and broadband services, along with the outage of X/Twitter.

Submitted in response to a petition filed by activist Jibran Nasir regarding the closure of online services between December 2023 and January 2024, the PTA’s reply also included the Ministry of Interior’s letter dated February 8. This letter carried directives to suspend “mobile services” due to the “security environment” concerns arising from a “surge in terrorist activities.”

Emphasizing the necessity for a “temporary suspension of mobile services,” the letter instructed the PTA to direct cellular mobile operators to carry out the suspension.

The PTA indicated that it relayed the operators’ instruction to suspend cellular data and call services nationwide (except Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir) at 5:39 am on the day of polling. They were directed to restore the services approximately 24 hours later following directives from the ministry.

The PTA argued that the ministry, acting on behalf of the government, issues directives for the closure of network services.

The PTA added: “[PTA] is under a legal obligation to comply with the instructions/directions based on the reports of intelligence agencies.”

Requesting additional time to submit its response, the Ministry of Interior sought an extension, prompting the court to grant them an extension until March 20.

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