ISLAMABAD-The Interior Ministry Monday submitted its reply before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) saying that it has no jurisdiction while hearing in a petition seeking access to internet in Parachinar district which was an Agency in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice AtharMinallah  conducted hearing of the petition filed by a petitioner who is a student belonging to District Parachinar which was an Agency in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The Agency was merged as a District in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

After receiving the Interior ministry and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s replies, the court sought clarity on its jurisdiction from the petitioner’s counsel. The IHC bench directed the petitioner’s counsel to seek judicial assistance in light of the Supreme Court’s recent verdict on the matter.

The counsel adopted that internet services have been suspended in tribal areas since 2016. He contended that universities are initiating online classes but the lack of internet services can result in a lost semester.

Justice Athar remarked that they had ruled that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) cannot legally suspend services but the Supreme Court annulled the decision. He added that the high court could not proceed without taking the apex court’s decision into consideration. He directed the petitioner’s counsel to read the SC’s verdict and satisfy the court accordingly.

The Chief Justice said that the interior ministry had also mentioned the provincial government’s role in the restoration of internet services. He remarked that the petitioner’s counsel would have to satisfy the court with regards to the IHC’s jurisdiction in light of the provincial government’s role. This court cannot give directives to a provincial government, he added.

After issuing aforementioned directions, the IHC bench deferred hearing in this matter for an indefinite period.

The petitioner stated in his petition that he is aggrieved because respondent no 1 (Ministry of IT) and respondent no 2 (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) have denied him and the general public the right of access to internet.

His counsel 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.

He further argued that on account of lockdown, the students are required to have access to the internet. Therefore, he also 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 internet.