Minister of IT Distances Ministry from Internet Blackout, Stresses Need for Alternatives

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Amin ul Haque

Syed Amin-ul-Haque, the Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication, has stated that his ministry was not consulted before the recent internet blackout in the country. He emphasized that the Ministry of IT was not involved in the decision-making process regarding the suspension of mobile internet services.

Haque clarified that since 2017, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) operates as an independent organization and is no longer under the direct control of the Ministry of IT. He highlighted that the PTA acted autonomously in implementing the blackout.

Relevant Read: Pakistan faces severe repercussions as internet services remain down amidst political turmoil

Expressing his views on the matter, the minister stated that blocking social media websites or shutting down the internet altogether was not a solution to any problem. He urged people to adopt a more open-minded approach and suggested that internet access could be limited to specific areas instead.

Haque pointed out that the blockade of internet services incurred significant financial losses, amounting to billions of rupees, for the IT sector. He emphasized the need to explore alternatives to complete shutdowns, considering the adverse impact on the country’s economy.

The recent internet blackout was initiated by the regulatory authority following violent protests triggered by the arrest of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan by Rangers personnel from the Islamabad High Court. The protests, which lasted for several days, resulted in the loss of lives and injuries to many.

However, after nearly a week of suspension, the government restored access to major social media platforms, including Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, across the country.

Reports suggest that the prolonged internet shutdown caused an estimated revenue loss of Rs820 million for telecom operators, dealing a severe blow to the sector, especially considering the fragile state of the economy.

In addition to the suspension of social media platforms, the government also restricted access to Twitter and Facebook, while YouTube services were slowed down to control the dissemination of misinformation and prevent panic among the public.

The recent incident has sparked a debate about the appropriate measures to address societal issues while balancing the need for information access and freedom of expression.

As the government faces criticism for the internet blackout, discussions are expected to intensify regarding the formulation of comprehensive policies to handle similar situations in the future, ensuring transparency, cooperation, and a more nuanced approach to address public concerns.

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