Cellular services suspended in Islamabad ahead of Independence Day

Official says cellular services will be suspended in the twin cities on Friday as well


Our Correspondent August 13, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Cellular services were suspended in the twin cities on Thursday to ensure security as Independence Day rehearsals were underway, officials told The Express Tribune.

"Due to security reasons, cellular services have been shut from 5:30am to 12:30pm on Thursday and will be suspended tomorrow morning as well for August 14 celebrations," the official said.

Read: Security forces foil Independence Day terror bid in Karachi: ISPR

Independence Day celebrations will be observed at the Convention Centre in Islamabad and will attended by President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief General Raheel Sharif.

The military on Wednesday said it has busted a ‘foreign-sponsored’ gang which was planning to sabotage Independence Day celebrations in Karachi.

Read: Parade problems: Public suffers amid roadblocks, cellular service suspension

The military’s media wing said the operation was carried out on the basis of credible intelligence which suggested that the gang was planning a major attack in Karachi on August 14. It added that the gang had been planning the attack for some time and had already prepared an explosives-laden vehicle and motorcycle which they intended to use on Independence Day. Pakistan’s claims that the failed terror plot has been traced to Afghanistan came amid recent allegations by the Afghan leadership that Islamabad is doing little to stop attacks in the war-torn country.

Efficacy of shutting networks questioned

Digital rights group Bytes for All, while questioning the efficacy of the move, said that it created a sense of panic and insecurity amongst the public, and reflects poorly on the capabilities of the country’s security apparatus.

“Shutting down mobile communications across the federal capital on a whim is a violation by the government of several fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, including the freedom to access information, freedom of speech expression, and freedom to trade,” said Shahzad Ahmad, country director of Bytes for All said in a statement. “It is extremely ironic and telling that the government is trampling on these freedoms in order to hold a ceremony to celebrate our country’s independence.”

“There is absolutely no convincing evidence to show that the suspension of mobile networks has any effect on reducing terrorism, and if the government wants to continue doing this it needs to make its case by presenting some evidence to the public. Even then, it is unacceptable to shutdown the network like this without informing the public in advance so that they can make preparations.”

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