Pakistan suspends mobile services and closes land borders amid tense election

Pakistan temporarily suspended mobile phone services across the country on Thursday and closed some land borders to maintain law and order as voting began in a national election that has been preceded by a surge in militant violence.

In the most recent such incidents, 26 people were killed in two explosions near electoral candidates’ offices in the southwestern province of Balochistan on Wednesday. The Islamic State later claimed responsibility.

The election is also being held in the midst of a deep economic crisis and in a highly polarized political environment, and many analysts believe no clear winner may emerge.

Thousands of troops have been deployed at polling stations across the country, and borders with Iran and Afghanistan were temporarily closed to facilitate a peaceful election.

“As a result of the recent incidents of terrorism in the country precious lives have been lost, security measures are essential to maintain the law and order situation and deal with possible threats,” the interior ministry said in a message on X.

The move to suspend mobile networks drew criticism from leaders of opposition parties, with the Pakistan People’s Party’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 35-year-old son of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto, calling for its “immediate restoration.”

“(I) have asked my party to approach both ECP (Election Commission of Pakistan) and the courts for this purpose,” he posted on X.

Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja said the decision on mobile networks was made by “law and order agencies” following Wednesday’s violence and that the commission would not interfere in the matter.

Jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, in a post on X, called on people to remove passwords from their personal Wifi accounts “so anyone in the vicinity can have access to internet on this extremely important day.”

Some voters also expressed anger at the move to suspend mobile services.


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