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‘Inherently undemocratic’: Pakistan suspends mobile services on voting day

The government temporarily suspends mobile phone services as it holds the parliamentary and provincial election.

Pakistan has suspended mobile phone services nationwide on election day, in a move a digital rights group said was “inherently undemocratic”.

A statement from the Ministry of Interior on Thursday said “precious lives have been lost” in recent armed attacks and such “security measures are essential to maintain the law and order situation and to deal with potential threats”.

One police officer was killed on Thursday when gunmen opened fire on a patrol vehicle in the northwestern area of Tank, local media reports said.

At least 28 people were killed in twin bomb blasts outside candidates’ offices in the southwestern province of Balochistan on Wednesday in attacks claimed by the ISIL (ISIS) group, and two candidates have been shot dead in the lead-up to the vote.

NetBlocks, a global internet watchdog, said data confirmed there was a disruption to mobile phone and internet services “corroborating widespread user reports of outages”.

“The ongoing election day internet blackout in Pakistan is amongst the largest we have observed in any country in terms of severity and extent,” NetBlocks director Alp Toker told AFP news agency.

“The practice is inherently undemocratic and is known to limit the work of independent election observers and cause irregularities in the voting process.”

Pakistan also temporarily shut some of its land borders with Iran and Afghanistan to beef up security amid a surge in violence.

The suspension of mobile services also follows a call by jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan to his supporters to wait outside polling booths after voting until results are announced.

Last year, Khan’s