ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Wednesday sent the matter of restoration of internet services in tribal areas to the federal cabinet.
A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of the petition filed by the students of tribal areas seeking restoration of internet services in the tribal areas which have now been merged in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
At the very outset, the Deputy Attorney General Syed Muhammad Tayyab stated that according to the stance of the Ministry of Interior, internet facilities cannot be made operational in the districts which have now been merged in the province of KP. He requested that the matter be adjourned to enable him to seek further instructions.
Similarly, Pakistan telecommunication authority submitted written comments wherein it has been unambiguously stated that the federal government has already been advised to review its decision so that internet facilities could be made operational in the area formerly referred to as ‘Federally Administered Tribal Areas.’
The IHC bench noted in its order that the technological progress made by the human race in the 21st century has definitely made access to internet facilities an integral part of the constitutionally guaranteed rights under Articles 9, 19 and 19-A of the Constitution.
It added that the internet facilities had been suspended in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas on account of insurgency and the exceptional law and order conditions. The people of the area, which has now been merged in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, have indeed suffered immensely.
The court observed that they have been victims of the worst form of violation of fundamental rights because of neglect and the flawed polices of the State since decades. However, admittedly peace has been restored and the writ of the State has been established due to enormous sacrifices of the citizens, the Armed Forces and other civilian authorities.
It added, “The people of the area, particularly the youth can no more be denied their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
There can be no justifiable reason now to keep the internet facilities suspended. The importance of access to internet cannot be overstated. Denial of such vital right on the basis of the vague ground of ‘security’ would amount to acknowledging by the authorities, the inability of the State to protect its citizens.”
“This Court is mindful of the fact that since law and order is a provincial subject, therefore, the Federal Government would have to consult the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,” maintained the bench.
Justice Athar further said, “This Court expects that the federal government i.e. the worthy prime minister and members of the federal cabinet will consider the matter and take appropriate decisions so that the fundamental rights of the citizens living in the former ‘Federally Administrated Tribal Areas’ could be restored without further delay by withdrawing the order of suspension of internet facilities.”
He directed the Secretary, Ministry of Interior to place a copy of this order before the federal cabinet i.e. the prime minister and members of the federal cabinet. He added that the Secretary would be expected to submit a report before the next date fixed and deferred the hearing till February 22 for further proceedings.