PESHAWAR: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has observed that internet service cannot be blocked in merged tribal districts even if there is lockdown or operation.

The IHC Chief Justice observed during hearing a petition filed against closure of internet service in merged tribal districts that there is no doubt that peace has returned to erstwhile Fata with the sacrifices of the security forces, but there is no justification of closure of internet.

During the hearing the Ministry of Information Technology submitted reply in the court and said that the Ministry of Interior had ordered blockage of internet in merged districts in 2016 and they could better tell the court about its reasons.

Upon this, the IHC sought explanation from the secretary Ministry of Interior and asked him so submit reply by the next hearing of the case.

Said Muhammad, a student belonging to Parachinar area of Kurram tribal district, has filed a petition in the IHC against closure of internet in merged areas. The petitioner’s counsel, Abdul Rahim Wazir, appeared in the court on Monday and told that despite the court’s orders, internet services had not been restored in the region.

The IHC again issued directives for restoration of internet service in the erstwhile Fata and adjourned hearing till April 28.

On last hearing of the case last week, IHC had directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to restore internet service in merged tribal districts.

The court had observed that people in the tribal districts cannot be denied access to internet.

Abdul Rahim Wazir had argued that the respondents had denied right of access to the internet to the people of merged tribal districts. He had 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 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.