The Sindh High Court has ordered the interior ministry not to suspend mobile phone services on Eidul Azha, which falls on Saturday, unless absolutely necessary.
A divisional bench of the SHC, headed by Justice Maqbool Baqir, also gave the same direction to the Federal Investigation Agency on Thursday while hearing a petition filed by a local lawyer, Tahir Pervez.
The interior secretary, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority chairman and the presidents of five cellular service provider companies – Mobilink, Ufone, Warid, Zong and Telenor – were named as respondents.
Perver’s counsel, Nehal Hashmi, said that Interior Minister Rehman Malik recently stated that mobile phone services would remain suspended from October 26 to 28, as was done during Eidul Fitr.
“Every citizen pays a handsome amount to avail [mobile service] facility, particularly during Eid days,” said Pervez, while questioning the rationality behind the decision to suspend the service. “This will deprive millions of users of their right to use the facility,” he added.
Furthermore, Pervez said the many people, whose relatives have gone to perform Hajj, would suffer if the service was suspended. Additionally, he added, dealing with emergencies would also become very difficult.
The petitioner further argued that whenever the government wants to suspend phone services, reports suddenly emerge about threats to the law and order situation. “Such activity affects the citizens’ right to information, which has been protected under the Article 19-A of the Constitution,” he said.
After hearing the initial arguments, the bench directed that the Interior Ministry and the FIA shall not suspend mobile phone services until absolutely ‘inevitable’.
If mobile services are suspended, it should be done with cogent reasons and with a specific time-frame, the court further directed.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2012.