July 20, 2020
By Anas Mallick
Students from Gilgit Baltistan and former-FATA took to the National Press Club to protest for the restoration of mobile internet data services in their areas. They demanded internet services so that they could attend online classes efficiently, as universities remain closed due to the pandemic.
Ali Wazir, the elected MNA from South Waziristan’s tribal district and PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, former spokesperson of President Asif Zardari also participated in the student-led demonstration.
The protesters demanded the authorities to immediately provide 3G and 4G services to the area … so that they could continue their education and not lag behind.
Senator Farhatullah Babar said that shutting down 3G and 4G services in Gilgit Baltistan, former FATA, and South Waziristan on the pretext of national security was unjustified. However, he urged the students not to ask authorities to promote them to next semester/classes without examinations.
MNA Ali Wazir also addressed the protesters and extended his full support to their demands.
Since the imposition of lockdown in March, students from across the country have been protesting for adequate provision of internet services so that they can continue with their online classes.
Before hitting the streets, the students had run a virtual campaign on Voicepk.net against the currently proposed system of online classes. During that campaign, the students in different videos highlighted the fact that many far-flung areas of Balochistan, former FATA, and Gilgit Baltistan do not have the facility of stable and cheap internet.
According to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), only 37 percent of the country’s population has access to 3G/4G internet services.
A writ petition was also filed in the Islamabad High Court pleading that the court should order the federal government and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to provide internet access in the tribal regions. In its last hearing on May 11, the interior ministry told the court that after the merger of FATA, the provincial government is responsible for restoring/halting internet service in the area.
After the ministry’s response, the court asked the petitioner to submit the reply regarding the jurisdiction of this court and adjourned the hearing indefinitely.
In a TV talk show last week, Federal Minister for Information and Technology Amin ul Haque assured that the government is trying to provide 3G/4G internet service to unserved areas of the country including Gilgit Baltistan (GB), Azad Kashmir and former-FATA through Universal Service Fund.