Islamabad, March 25, 2012: Pakistan celebrates one of its national days on 23 March also known as Pakistan Day. This year, unfortunately, the day was marred with oppression against its own people in Balochistan. While the entire country was celebrating a historic milestone in Pakistan’s inception, chaos struck Balochistan, the southern province of the country. It was only towards the end of the day, when sporadic reports started surfacing about a province-wide communication blockage that had shut down all cellular phone networks depriving the people of Balochistan from their communication rights for the day for no apparent reason.
As expected, this humiliating decision of shutting down the cellular phone network in the province was implemented to safeguard the “national security”. This is farce, hegemonic and condemnable. We believe that this blanket ban on cellular phones in the name of ‘security’ is instigating hatred and falsely holding all the people in Balochistan a security risk.
While this particular incident was specifically targeted towards an already oppressed ethnic group, the track record of this government in the past and continuously occurring oppressive instances have left the aware citizens in Pakistan thinking. It is a well known fact that our obsessively compulsive and severely dominating government authorities create false alarms around “national security” and play with the fundamental rights of citizens in the country. This is uncalled for and unjustified by all norms of civilized, democratic societies.
Referring back to the blanket ban of cellular phones in Balochistan on Pakistan Day, it has raised serious question marks about the state of freedoms & rights in the country. This action by the government authorities questions the basic foundation on which the country was created to provide its citizens with freedom of expression, opinion, work, live, and prosper respectably. Blanket bans & blocking any communication channels by authorities is a constitutional crime & against all international human rights standards.
In today’s world, digital communication is central and essential for citizens personal and professional well being. Blanket bans on communications, as occurred in Balochistan on Pakistan Day shows that Government is hardly sincere in fulfilling its promise to provide and flourish freedom of expression and opinion in Pakistan.
It is also a point of grave concern to note that how all telecommunication companies play in the hands of authorities against the interests of their consumers. Such bans are gross violation of citizens’ consumer rights and Telcos should have put some pressure on the authorities to push back on such hegemonic decisions.
Bytes For All, Pakistan strongly condemn this blanket ban on communication and outrageous act of silencing the voices from Balochistan on Pakistan Day. We demand from the Government to uphold the fundamental rights of its citizens and stop playing the false alarms of “national security” to curb fundamental rights, especially freedom of expression, speech and opinion.
We also hope that apex courts in Pakistan will take notice of this serious issue and direct the government authorities, especially the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to refrain from such outrageous, embarrassing acts in the future as these are against the sovereignty and national security of Pakistan.
This is high time for the citizens to stand united and step up the struggle for their democratic rights. Pakistan is a democracy and not a security state and right to communicate is central for citizens in order to live in freedom, peace, justice, and dignity.
Note to Editors:
About Bytes for All, Pakistan
Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan is a human rights organization and a network of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals and practitioners. It experiments and organizes debate on the relevance of ICTs for sustainable development and strengthening social justice movements in the country. Its mission is “ICTs for development, democracy and social justice”. www.bytesforall.pk
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