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In compliance with directives from the Ministry of Interior, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has confirmed its issuance of instructions to suspend mobile phone services on February 8, the day of polling. Responding to a Sindh High Court (SHC) bench on Tuesday, the authority underscored its obligation to adhere to the interior ministry’s directives, clarifying its role as the implementing agency.

In a separate development, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has issued notices to both the authority and the information ministry following a plea challenging the “ban” imposed on the social media platform X. Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi presided over a two-judge SHC bench, addressing identical petitions lodged against the suspension of mobile internet and broadband services, alongside the outage of X/Twitter.

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In its response to a petition filed by activist Jibran Nasir regarding the closure of online services between December 2023 and January 2024, the PTA included the Ministry of Interior’s letter dated February 8. This letter contained directives to suspend “mobile services” due to “security environment” concerns arising from a “surge in terrorist activities.”

Stressing the necessity for a “temporary suspension of mobile services,” the letter instructed the PTA to direct cellular mobile operators to implement the suspension. The PTA indicated that it relayed the instruction to suspend cellular data and call services nationwide (except Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir) at 5:39 am on the day of polling. Operators were directed to restore services approximately 24 hours later following directives from the ministry.

The PTA argued that the ministry, acting on behalf of the government, issues directives for the closure of network services.

The PTA further stated: “[PTA] is under a legal obligation to comply with the instructions/directions based on the reports of intelligence agencies.” Requesting additional time to submit its response, the Ministry of Interior sought an extension, leading the court to grant them until March 20.

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