PPP, PTI, JI approach ECP against suspension of mobile, internet services during voting process
- Independent candidate Khokhar says it is “beginning” of rigging.
- Interior Ministry suspends cellular services “temporarily”.
- JI leader Hafiz Naeem demands immediate restoration of services.
After countrywide disruption of cellular and internet services during general elections, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Thursday wrote a letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, citing the high court’s orders given in 2018 for not suspending the said services on polling day.
The Bilawal-led party, expressing its concerns in a letter to the top judge, stated that the “unannounced disruptions of internet and mobile network connectivity today” is “severely impacting the general elections.”
“Due to this countrywide disruption, voters are unable to access information related to their polling station or coordinate logistics to access the polling stations,” it added.
The party sought the top court to recall clear orders for not suspending internet on polling day as they were given by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in 2018. The PPP termed the suspension of services in violation of the high court’s orders.
“The discontinuation of network services has created problems for voters, candidates, and electoral staff.”
The disruption of mobile network has impacted voter turnout. Despite the PPP’s request to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the services have not been restored, it further stated.
Earlier, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has lodged a complaint with the Election Commission of Pakistan against mobile and internet services disruptions across the country on the polling day.
Earlier in the morning, the Ministry of Interior suspended cellular services “temporarily” across Pakistan as part of security measures as the nation votes today in the general elections.
An interior ministry’s spokesperson said that precious lives were lost in recent incidents of terrorism in the country in the run-up to the general elections.
However, several political parties including PPP and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) raised questions over the suspension of mobile phone services, saying that it was the “worst situation ever”.
“We, the Pakistan Peoples Party are concerned on the recent unannounced disruptions of internet and mobile network connectivity across Pakistan which is severely impacting the General Elections,” PPP’s election cell in-charge Taj Haider wrote in a letter addressed to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja.
Due to this countrywide disruption, voters are unable to access information related to their polling station or coordinate logistics to access the polling stations, he added.
The discontinuation of network services has created problems for voters, candidates, and electoral staff.
“Understandably, without access to internet and mobile networks, voters are unable to access vital information about polling stations and follow other electoral procedures and coordinate logistics to access respective polling stations,” the complaint added.
The PPP urged the ECP to take immediate action to restore mobile network and internet connectivity to ensure free and fair elections.
“The immediate restoration of mobile network and internet will demonstrate ECPs commitment to a free, fair and transparent Elections 2024,” it added.
Earlier, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that his party will approach both the ECP and relevant courts in a bid to restore mobile phone services on election day.
Taking to X, Bilawal wrote, “Mobile phone services must be restored immediately across the country have asked my party to approach both ECP and the courts for this purpose.”
‘Injustice done to 250m Pakistanis’
JIP Karachi Emir Hafiz NaeemUr Rehman said that suspending cellular services was the worst situation ever.
“We demand the interior minister to restore the mobile services immediately. By suspending the services, injustice has been done to 250 million Pakistanis.”
PPP senior leader Saeed Ghani said that questions will be raised over the suspension of cellular services, demanding to restore the services on an immediate basis.
“The government is responsible for the law and order situation in the country and it is not appropriate to make the election process controversial,” he added.
Additionally, the politico-religious party’s election cell in Karachi also wrote a letter to the Sindh election commissioner to demand immediate restoration of the services.
“The suspension of internet and cellular services increases the risks of vote rigging. The suspension of these services is seemingly a signal of a conspiracy,” it stated.
The JI also complained about delays in the commencement of the voting process due to the absence of staffers in several polling stations despite long queues of citizens who are willing to cast their votes.
‘Beginning of election day rigging’
Independent candidate Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said that shutting down mobile networks on polling day is the beginning of election day rigging.
“Pre-poll environment was already one of the worst in Pakistan’s history. Cutting candidates off from their agents and staff on election day is unacceptable. How is one supposed to keep a check and highlight any irregularity? By the time news comes out election would have been stolen,” he wrote on X.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Omar Ayub Khan harshly criticised the authorities for cutting the mobile phone services on the day of the election, calling it an interference in the electoral process and hurdles for the citizens.
Later the party also wrote a letter to the ECP complaining about the difficulties being faced by the voters due to the suspension of the mobile services.