By Hamid Khan Wazir
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: In what could be dubbed a great development, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has directed the concerned parties to submit a written reply in the case of non-availability of the 3G/4G internet in the merged tribal districts in next hearing to be held on April 23, 2020.
The students of different universities hailing from seven tribal districts staging protest demonstrations for the last 10 days against the unavailability of 3G and 4G internet in merged tribal districts due to which their studies are being badly impacted amid the deadly virus spreading at an alarming pace in the County.
The IHC bench headed by the Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Tuesday directed the respondents to take appropriate measures to restore the internet 3G/4G facilities in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
The Chief Justice expressed his surprise over the non-availability of the internet facility and asked the counsel whether there is no internet facility in the area at all?
The petition was filed by Sayed Muhammad, resident of district Kurram and a student of the National University of Modern Languages (NUML) in Islamabad through a counsel Advocate Abdur Rahim Advocate.
The petitioner said that in the recent past Coronavirus threat is spread in the Country along with worldwide, all the educational institutions, private offices, and commercial activities are shut-down and lock-down has been imposed in almost all the areas of the Country.
The students of different universities hailing from South Waziristan tribal district on Saturday staged a protest demonstration outside the Wana Press Club over unavailability of 3G and 4G internet in merged tribal districts due to which their studies are being impacted badly.
Sayed Muhammad remarked as how it is possible that the whole merged area be deprived of such important facility.
The IHC issued notices to the Secretary Information Technology and the Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and directed to present written reply in the next hearing.
The Court directed both the respondents to nominate their respective authorized officers to appear before the court on the next date of hearing and explain as to why access to internet has been denied to the petitioner and the general public of the merged districts.
Advocate Raheem Wazir contended that access to internet is a constitutionally guaranteed right and is an integral part of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973.
The counsel has further contended that on account of lockdown, the students are required to have access to the internet. He has, therefore, argued that the students and the general public of the former FATA cannot be denied their constitutionally guaranteed rights by refusing to give access to the internet.
Raheem informed the court that the people of the merged districts restricted to their home due to the lockdown.
“The people from across the country are enjoying the internet facility and the students are being given online classes, while thousands of students from tribal districts are being deprived of this much-needed facility,” he argued.
The counsel for petitioner apprised the bench that due to the non-availability of the internet the precious education years of students including the petitioner would be wasted.
The counsel replied that they wrote several times to the Prime Minister, Chief Minister KP and governor KP to resolve the issue; however the issue remained unaddressed hitherto.
The Chief Justice sought written reply from both the parties while adjourning the case till April 23.