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Pakistan: A fortnight on, internet still banned in Gilgit Baltistan

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Amid sectarian tensions between Shias and Sunnis in Pakistan-occupied Gilgit Baltistan, the local administration continues to suspend all internet services in the region causing inconvenience to the residents.

It has been over a fortnight since the sectarian tensions between the Shia majority in Gilgit Baltistan and the Sunni community boiled into massive protests against Islamabad and its new amendment in blasphemy laws.

Gilgit Baltistan a largely impoverished region had internet services in only a few pockets.

The people there had just started exploring the possibilities of online businesses and education opportunities, and the Pakistan-backed administration in the illegally occupied territory imposed a ban on internet services leaving a number of students in Gilgit city deprived of their routine online classes. “Due to the unavailability of internet services for the last 15 days, our studies have been disrupted. We request the administration to restore the internet services” said a student from Gilgit city.

The new online businesses that the residents had set up are down, rendering many youths jobless and frustrated.
A small businessman providing financial services to locals, said, “I work for Easypaisa (a financial services app). About 20-25 Easypaisa retailers are doing business in this area. All of them are unemployed these days. Due to the internet shutdown over the last 20 days, all of us are out of work. We urge the administration to restore internet services as it would enable us to start our businesses again.” Another youth, who had assumed freelancing a few months ago, said he was disturbed over the suspension of internet services in the region, adding that he lost about 8-10 work projects during the period.

He said, “We are freelancers and the internet is a basic requirement for us. We request the local administration to restore internet services as our work is being hampered. We are facing a lot of problems. We have lost about 8-10 work orders during this period.” The suspension of the internet in the region has added to the woes that locals in the illegally-occupied territory have been suffering for decades.

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