ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to immediately restore 3G and 4G internet service in Khyber Pakhtunkwa’s (K-P) tribal districts and also submit a report in the court in this regard.
“The internet facility is the basic right of every citizen. Article 19 of the Constitution protects the citizen’s right of freedom of expression,” IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah said on Tuesday while hearing a petition filed by a student, Syed Muhammad, against suspension of internet in the former tribal areas.
Earlier, the petitioner’s counsel, Abdul Raheem Wazir, pleaded that thousands of students have been confined to their houses in the wake of coronavirus outbreak and these students could lose one year of their education due to suspension of internet in the districts.
He said his client had given applications to the relevant forums – including prime minister of Pakistan and the K-P governor and chief minister – for provision of the internet but to no avail.
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The chief justice asked the counsel if the internet service was not available in tribal areas from the beginning or had it been suspended recently. The lawyer said students of the seven districts of former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) were facing the problem for the last ten-days.
“The students of entire Pakistan are attending online classes except the students of these areas. My client and other students could face educational loss due to lack of internet service,” he added.
The court, while observing that it is a matter related to the basic human rights guaranteed by the Constitution, issued notices to the Information technology secretary and PTA chairman to revive the internet service in these areas and submit a written report.
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The IHC also ordered the officials to appear before the court and explain why these areas were deprived of the internet service. The judge also ordered authorities to restore 4G internet service in Parachinar.
The seven tribal districts were part of the former Fata before their merger with the K-P in 2018. The areas had been worst affected by militancy after 9/11 and had become a hotbed of local militants and their foreign cohorts for many years.