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Mobile phone, internet services disrupted across country on polling day

ISLAMABAD: In a bid to “maintain law and order” situation amid the ongoing general elections across the country, the government has suspended mobile phone services nationwide, an Interior Ministry spokesperson confirmed Thursday. “It has been decided to temporarily suspend the mobile service across the country,” a ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesman said “precious lives have been lost” in recent militant attacks in Pakistan and “security measures are essential to maintain law and order situation and to deal with potential threats”.

Commenting on the internet shutdown, the Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja said the Election Commission of Pakistan will not give any instructions to the interior ministry regarding the resumption of services.

“If we ask them to turn mobile services on and a terror incident takes place, who will be responsible?” he questioned.

The CEC maintained that the ECP’s system doesn’t rely on the internet.

AbbTakk News journalists and those from international media in different parts of the country reported they could not access mobile internet services as polls opened at 8:00am, while there were also reports of poor access in the southern city of Karachi.

Meanwhile, following the mobile and internet shutdown, the ECP’s 8300 SMS service also became unavailable due to the suspension of mobile services.

In Islamabad, voters remain deprived of receiving information about their polling stations.

Polling staff in Karachi said they are having communication issues due to the mobile network shutdown. In Lahore, the ECP‘s monitoring system and complaint cell were also affected due to the shutdown.

Services also remain suspended in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat and other districts. In Punjab, cities including Jehanian, Vehari, Phool Nagar, Patoki and surrounding areas faced partial suspension of internet and mobile services.

In Sindh, mobile services are partially suspended in Tando Mohammad Khan, Dadu and their suburbs.

Speaking about the mobile services suspension, the Commonwealth Observer Group’s delegation said voting is more important than the internet.

“We would conduct elections before the inception of internet,” said the group’s Chair Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, adding internet is not needed in the voting process.

However, he maintained that there would be a problem while sending the results due to internet outage.

At least 26 people were killed in twin bomb blasts outside candidates’ offices in Balochistan on Wednesday.