ISLAMBAD: The government shut down cell phone services in Balochistan on Pakistan Day, an action that some officials claimed was taken to keep a check on militants in the province.
“Cellular services were suspended from 8am to 12am in Balochistan in an order to implement national security policy,” said Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Dr Mohammad Yasin.
The Ministry of Information Technology on the directions of Interior Minister Rehman Malik asked PTA to cut off mobile services, added officials.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MNA Ayatullah Durrani denied that the shutdown was due to security reasons. “The government blocked cellular services for replacing the old system with new communication transfer.”
“PTA has been directed to replace the system as soon as possible,” he said.
Officials from the Interior Ministry were tight lipped over the issue and said that they did not know about the suspension of cellular services in the province. Interior Secretary Saddiq-e-Akbar also did not respond to queries regarding the situation.
Officials associated with the Governor House in Balochistan said that the Home Department had requested the Ministry of Interior to curb militant activities in the province on Pakistan Day. “It could be a fruitful exercise to stop militants from fulfilling their evil designs by stopping cell phones on Pakistan Day,” observed a senior official associated with the Governor House.
Public Relations Officer to Governor Balochistan Javed Ahmed confirmed to The Express Tribune that cellular services had been suspended in the province on the directions of the government.
Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) leader Agha Shahid Khan Bugti told The Express Tribune that he had been trying to contact his family but to no avail. “I could not greet Pakistan Day to my family members,” he said.
“I can contact anyone in the world, but could not talk to any person in Balochistan. The step is against the will of Pakistan’s founders who carved out an independent state where rule of law would reign supreme,” observed Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) Senator Rubina Irfan. She said she had tried to contact family members before leaving Islamabad for Karachi, but was unable to.
Officials associated with the office of Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani and Home Secretary Naseebullah Khan said that locals had visited their offices despite an official holiday to record their protest over the development.
Celebrations in the province
Pakistan Army and the Frontier Corps held different functions, including sports events in Quetta, Gwadar, Loralai, Khuzdar, Chaman, Pasni, Kech and other townships.
The chief minister inaugurated a festival arranged by the FC at Nawab Noroz Khan Stadium and hoisted the Pakistan flag.
People set up their stalls displaying traditional musical instruments, cloths, caps and shoes.
Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly Aslam Bhootani and Provincial Minister Ali Madad Jatak led separate peace walks from the provincial assembly and Saryab Road to Ayub Stadium where a festival was under way.
With additional reporting by Shehzad Baloch