Balochistan suffers another kill switch on Independence Day 2012

Islamabad, August 15, 2012: It is very unfortunate to note that the 66th Independence Day of Pakistan was not any different for citizens in Balochistan than the Pakistan Day on 23 March 2012. Their digital communication channels were blocked by the government and yet again in the name of “national security” and “upholding law and order”.

Earlier this year, Bytes For All (B4A), Pakistan, shared its grave concern & condemnation on a province-wide communication blockade that had shut down all cellular phone networks on 23rd March 2012 (Pakistan Day), depriving the people of Balochistan from their basic communication rights, throughout the entire day for no apparent reason.

B4A not only condemned this hideous practice by the authorities but also demanded from the Government of Pakistan to uphold the fundamental rights of its citizens, and stop setting off false alarms of “national security threats”, creating unnecessary emergency situations to infringe upon citizens’ basic human rights.

On this Independence Day, the 14th of August 2012, when the entire country was supposed to be celebrating Pakistan’s Independence Day in unity and great fervor, the citizens in Balochistan were forcibly excluded and found suffering from the unlawful repressive practices of censorship by authorities with all cellular phone networks in the province frozen.

In our previous statement, on the same issue, we strongly protested against this exclusionary practices of humiliating the Baloch citizens, and expressed solidarity with the province that has been suffering from a sense of abandonment by the state.

Once again, we stand united with our fellow Baloch citizens, and vehemently condemn this oppression, denouncing the horrible treatment by the government towards its own people. This is farce, hegemonic and condemnable!

We have received the news from the ground that this ban on communications, apparently for “security” reasons have been hugely protested by the citizens in the province and can eventually end up further widening the gulf of trust deficit, instigating more violence and rebellion among citizens.

What’s ironic is that such blatant attempts to restrict the fundamental freedoms that have been awarded by the Constitution of Pakistan to its citizens, symbolizes as oppression by the government against its own citizens on a day, when Pakistanis are supposedly celebrating independence and freedom from their oppressors.

Over the last few months, the government’s policy of censoring digital communications, especially the Internet is now showing its true colors. Increasing censorship of political discourse online and surveillance of communications of citizens is taking quite prominence in the Pakistani communications sphere.

B4A had aptly warned the international community that allowing censorship for reasons of so called morality and religion would end up making way towards wider acceptance among the society for blocking political discourse and alternate narratives, that is now becoming quite evident from the actions of authorities.

One most condemnable example is the recent orders by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) directing all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block numerous ‘scandalous’ Internet sites, specifically those containing the audio recording of a sensual conversation between two sitting parliamentarians.

It is important to realize that true democracy and freedom comes with the freedom of expression, speech, & opinion. Blocking speech or expression can serve no purpose to strengthen human rights and democratic principles in the society that Pakistan aspires to be.

Bytes For All, Pakistan, has always condemned such blanket bans on communications and Internet.  We will continue to stand our ground and won’t stop raising our voice in solidarity with people of Balochistan and against such blatant violations of the fundamental freedoms for all Pakistani citizens. We urge the government to stop tyrannous and hegemonic practices immediately and refrain from curbing citizens’ fundamental human rights of expression, speech and opinion.  Furthermore, we also demand to stop imposing false alarms and falsely accusing it’s own citizens as being ‘threats to Pakistan’s national security’.

It is high time that government should learn and start trusting its own people and work with them for the socio-economic betterment of the country rather excluding one whole province from the mainstream development processes by blocking their communication channels.

These actions are only further deteriorating the law and order rather than bridging the divide and helping improve the situation in Balochistan!

 

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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
 
For more information:

Shahzad Ahmad
Cell. +92 333 5236060
info@bytesforall.pk and www.bytesforall.pk