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Pakistan: Islamabad High Court declares network disconnections as illegal

Pakistani youth watch a cricket match on a mobile phone in Islamabad, Pakistan, on 18 June 2017
Pakistani youth watch a cricket match on a mobile phone in Islamabad, Pakistan, on 18 June 2017


This statement was originally published on on 26 February 2018.

Bytes for All, Pakistan welcomes the decision by the Honorable Judge of Islamabad High Court, Justice Athar Minallah whereby he declared the network shutdown as illegal and a disproportionate response to security threats.

The judgement reads as, "For what has been discussed above, the instant appeal and the connected petitions are allowed. Consequently, the actions, orders and directives issued by the Federal Government or the Authority, as the case may be, which are inconsistent with the provisions of section 54(3) are declared as illegal, ultra vires and without lawful authority and jurisdiction. The Federal Government or the Authority are, therefore, not vested with the power and jurisdiction to suspend or cause the suspension of mobile cellular services or operations on the ground of national security except as provided under section 54(3)."

We are pleased to cherish this triumphant moment and share it with the digital rights community inside Pakistan and across the globe who extended their utmost support to us to conduct the pioneering research, Security V. Access: Network Shutdowns in Pakistan. This report has served the basis for public interest petitions in the court led by Advocate Umer Gilani.

We gratefully acknowledge the work of young Advocate Umer Gilani whose tireless efforts have yielded results and the success possible.

"This will set [a precedent], not only in the country but also for the external world wherever States use network disconnections as a tool to suppress fundamental rights in the name of security. Disconnecting people from communication networks is tantamount to denying a set of fundamental rights, including access to information, emergency services, expression and other associated rights," says Shahzad Ahmad, Country Director, Bytes For All, Pakistan.

We expect the government of Pakistan to implement the judgement in letter and spirit, and find alternative ways to answer legitimate threats to peace and the law and order situation in the country.

To access the Bytes for All research, please click here.
To access the court's judgement, please click here.

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