Accessibility to the internet has remained one of the biggest challenges in Pakistan. Viewed as a fundamental human right, this has wide ranging impacts on other fields of life such as education, health, employment and daily activities. In the current age, individuals’ lives are largely dependent on the digital world. The internet is required to complete daily tasks and is a requirement for students to businessmen. Unfortunately, there are regions in Pakistan which are still deprived of quality internet service.
Network disconnections and lack of provision of internet services in districts of Pakistan has been mostly done in the name of security. Infrastructural issues have also contributed to the denial of access to good quality internet services in the regions. This issue has been prevalent mostly in districts of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB). There has been major legislation and advocacy done for the accessibility of the internet in these districts however efforts have all gone in vain.
The current pandemic has altered many ways of life as our dependence has largely been made on the use of internet and digital technologies. Due to this, online system of education has been introduced with the concept of classes delivered through digital platforms. In Pakistan, though classes remained suspended for a long time however the Higher Education Commission (HEC) had announced the resumption through online classes. It is however a daunting fact that students are being asked to complete their educational year by attending online classes without the provision of services required for it.
It is for this reason that students from various parts of Pakistan including Gwadar and Quetta had staged protests against the lack of accessibility of quality internet which is mandatory for attending online classes. According to the students in Turbat and Pasni, they are unable to attend classes because there is no service provided to them. In addition to the disconnectivity, the mobile internet in the regions are also intermittent. In such conditions, students believed that they had to send a message to the authorities to restore internet facilities in their region. Students were also concerned that their educational year will be wasted as they would not be able to keep up with the students of other provinces.
Similarly, a peaceful protest was held in Quetta by the Baloch Students Alliance (BSA) on the same issue however the Balochistan Police arrested more than a dozen students. The students raised their voices on the digital media and said that they were mistreated for protesting against something which is their civic right. Arrested students also said that they will face numerous issues in their studies which will hold lasting impacts on their careers as well.
PakVoices supports the students raising their voice for the accessibility of the internet which is a fundamental right. We believe that without quality internet, the future of the students will be at risk. We also discourage the use of force against the protesters as it falls under the realm of their freedom. Furthermore, we hope that the authorities will restore and resolve connectivity issues for each region alike.