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APP30-221123 QUETTA: November 22 – Balochistan Caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai addressing press conference at Quetta Press Club. APP/MNN/MAF/TZD/ZID

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Internet access to be restricted in sensitive areas during Feb 8 polls due to terror threat: Achakzai

Caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai of Balochistan announced on Sunday night that internet services would be temporarily restricted in sensitive polling booths across the province on election day.

With Balochistan facing security threats from militants leading up to the February 8 polls, the caretaker government made the decision to suspend internet services to mitigate the potential risks associated with terrorist activities during the polling process.

In a statement to X, Minister Achakzai highlighted the concern that terrorists might exploit social media platforms for communication related to their malicious plans. Emphasizing the paramount importance of ensuring the safety and security of ordinary citizens, he expressed the need to prevent potential misuse of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and other similar channels by terrorists.

Internet access is slated to be restricted in the lead-up to the elections in various regions, including Turbat, Mach, and Chaman—areas recently targeted by terrorist attacks in the province. This decision arises amidst a precarious situation in Balochistan, marked by a surge in terrorist incidents, particularly aimed at political parties and their election rallies ahead of the polls.

The impact of intermittent network outages extends beyond security measures, affecting independent candidates with limited resources who heavily rely on social media to disseminate their messages. Lawyer Jibran Nasir, a candidate in Karachi, has taken legal action against the government, arguing that the social media shutdowns establish a “dangerous precedent” and violate constitutional rights.

Nasir emphasized the direct assault on the freedom of expression for all Pakistanis, irrespective of their political affiliations. He highlighted the challenges faced by candidates, especially those with constrained budgets, in conducting effective campaigns due to inflation.

With less than a week remaining until the February 8 polls, security measures have been intensified across the country, with law enforcement deployed to ensure law and order during the national-level elections. Despite ongoing election preparations and campaigns, the nation grapples with consecutive incidents of violence, particularly at political parties’ rallies in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, raising concerns about the overall security situation.

Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, earlier this week, dismissed any possibility of communication and internet service outages on polling day, assuring the public of the peaceful conduct of elections.

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I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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