PESHAWAR: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to restore internet service in merged tribal districts.

The court observed that people in the tribal districts cannot be denied access to internet. A student belonging to Parachinar in Kurram tribal district, Said Muhammad, had filed a petition in the court arguing that internet service was denied in tribal districts even after merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which is injustice with the area people, particularly with students, who lag behind due to lack of access to modern technology.

The IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah admitted the petition and asked the Ministry of Information Technology, PTA as well as other respondents to submit reply by April 20 and adjourned the hearing till then.

Abdul Rahim Wazir, the petitioner’s counsel, argued that the respondents had denied right of access to the internet to the people of merged tribal districts. He said that under the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan, every citizen has the right of access to internet facility.

The petitioner’s counsel argued that lockdown due to coronavirus threat has impacted the studies of the students. He said many universities have started online classes, but the students of merged districts cannot avail this facility as they don’t have internet facility. He said the students of merged districts would lag behind other students who have all the facilities.

The IHC asked the respondents to explain on the next hearing as to why internet facility was denied to the people of merged tribal districts. The respondents were also directed to take measures to restore the 3G/4G internet facilities in merged tribal districts.

The students of merged districts have staged several protests recently to pursue their demand of internet facility. The protesting students argued that one even cannot imagine of completing higher education without benefiting from the internet facility, but the students of erstwhile Fata don’t have this facility even in this modern era of technology. The protesters say the students of tribal districts cannot compete with students of settled areas in the studies as they have more facilities.