Why does Pakistani State not allow Internet in Balochistan?

The state of Pakistan has always sought to control access to information. There is censorship of the media – social media, print and electronic – and muzzling of civil society and academia. Nowhere is this more visible than in the province of Baluchistan. What is disturbing to note is that for the last two years mobile and internet services have been shut down in parts of Balochistan on grounds of ‘national security.’

In a recent piece for The Diplomat, Shah Meer Baloch, talks in detail about “Balochistan’s Great Internet Shutdown.” According to Baloch “In late February of 2017, before beginning to collect population census data, 3G/4G mobile internet services were suspended in Kech district. The sole reason given was “security reasons.” Over two years later, 3G/4G services remain suspended, and now the flood had ensured that even wired internet connections are no longer functioning.”

When in 2018, “a large group of students and a few lecturers from Balochistan took a trip to Punjab province and Islamabad, where they got the opportunity to meet the director general (DG) of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistani armed forces. A curious student from Kech posed a question about the suspension of mobile internet services and told the DG that it was affecting their studies. The DG replied that anti-state elements use these services and disturb law and order in the region.”

When a local lawyer Zamurani challenged the shutdown of 3G/4G services in Turbat High Court he “could not see the case to its end. He had to withdraw the case from court after some people in plain clothes visited him in his chamber and told him he was challenging national security by questioning the mobile internet shutdown. “They — people from security agencies — told me that they have restored peace in some villages of Kech by closing these services,” Zamurani explains. “Challenging this was like I was questioning the national security. So, I had to withdraw the case without any questions.””

According to The Diplomat article “The suspension of mobile internet services is not limited to Balochistan province. The services are also suspended in what was formerly known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas or FATA, now part of Khyber Pakhthunkwa (KP) province In early June 2016, at Torkham, the border forces of Pakistan and Afghanistan clashed over the construction of a gate by the Pakistani authorities on the border. This clash led to the suspension of 3G/4G services in bordering towns and tribal areas. “Since then the former tribal areas have no internet services,” says Shahid Kazmi, a local from KP province. “The government had announced they would restore it, but they actually never did.””

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