The Islamabad High court (IHC) on Tuesday, April 14, ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to restore 3G/4G internet services in erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
The court issued the directive while hearing a petition filed by Sayed Muhammad, resident of Parachinar, who studies at the National University of Modern Languages (NUML).
According to Muhammad, his need for the internet had reached an intolerable level and he desperately needed it to continue with his studies as his university has been closed. He said the permanent unavailability of the internet in his area was a blatant violation of his fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution.
The IHC sought a reply from the PTA and Ministry of Information & Technology and adjourned the hearing till 20th April.
Talking to Voicepk.net, Muhammad said that after the merger of FATA in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he wanted to see tribal people getting the same rights as enjoyed by those who live in the cities.
He further said that thousands of people especially students would benefit from the restoration of internet services in tribal areas.
“Former FATA has a population of 8 million and most of them are youth. Now hundreds of thousands of tribal students can also have access to online education/classes.”
Senior Advocate and former president of Supreme Court Bar Association, Kamran Murtaza said that the internet has now become a basic right and its closure violates constitutional rights.
“By not giving internet access to tribal areas, the government is violating at least 3 articles of the constitution.” Kamran said adding, “Firstly it is breaching Article 4 which promises that every individual will be dealt with in accordance to law. in addition Article 19 ensures access to information and Article 25 guarantees the right to education are also being compromised.”
Pakistan Tehreek Insaf’s ruling government had promised to revolutionize governance and businesses through digital technology. The Government has also launched few initiatives like PM Citizen Portal to introduce e-governance in the country.
But Nighat Dad, who is a digital rights activist, and Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) said that such schemes cannot be effective unless the government ensures equal access to the internet throughout Pakistan.
“Internet should be accessible for everyone, not only for those who live in the metropolitan areas and are already privileged. The Government must end the digital divide especially gender-based digital divide to fulfill the dream of a ‘Digital Pakistan.” she said.