After a recent spate of sectarian violence broke out in Gilgit, Baltistan, the government imposed Section 144* as riot control. The sectarian violence in Gilgit has cost over 16 lives and injured over 50. Communication plays an essential role during a time of distress, ensuring unarmed civilians are able to communicate and remain updated with the situation. However, on the orders of the Interior Minister Rehman Malik, mobile phone services have been jammed in Gilgit. In addition to a curfew being imposed, mobile services have also been suspended indefinitely. Ironically the interior ministry sees this as an effective method of riot control.

All renowned Shia and sunni Ulmas have appealed for peace in GB. The switching oft he mob phone service disrupted the evil designs of criminals

— Rehman Malik (@SenRehmanMalik) April 4, 2012

 We have recently seen an increase in suspension of mobile phone services at the behest of national security. This is worrisome. On the 23rd of March, the government shut down cell phone services in parts of Baluchistan citing security reasons. Depriving civilians from their rights to access and justifying it under national security reflects badly on the government. It’s even worse that the communication black hole is prompted without a time frame, making most announcements sudden and indefinite.The state should ensure the security of its civillians without compromising their rights to access. It appears that security agencies do not comprehend the repercussions of a communication standstill specially in a volatile situation. We urge the interior ministry to implement a riot control mechanism that doesn’t affect access and communication.
The state should take strict actions against those responsible for widespread sectarian killings. However, we believe that a communication black hole is a counter-productive method for riot control. The government must ensure that the lives and civil liberties of its citizens are protected.

 

144*. Joining unlawful assembly armed with deadly weapon:
Whoever, being armed with any deadly weapon, or with anything which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, is a member of an unlawful assembly/shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both