GILGIT/ISLAMABAD: #Internet4GilgitBaltistan became the top Twitter trend in Pakistan a day earlier, as netizens living in Gilgit-Baltistan and the region’s diaspora joined hands to make their voices heard. Thousands of tweets were posted to demand internet for the region.
Sorry #GilgitBaltistan can’t be a detox spot for privileged elites coming from downcountry and elsewhere. We can’t afford your entertainment at the cost of our marginalisation. We need a better internet service to keep up with the rest of the world. #Internet4GilgitBaltistan
— Basharat Issa (@BasharatIssa) July 7, 2020
Posting statements, stories, testimonies, facts and funny, but hard-hitting, memes, the internet users lashed out at the federal government and at the Special Communications Organization (SCO), for keeping the mountainous area deprived of latest information and communication technologies.
Many renowned journalists with verified accounts from mainland Pakistan also tweeted in support of the demand.
The demand for internet has skyrocketed in the Gilgit-Baltistan region after the CoVID19 pandemic as thousands of the region’s students and professionals have returned home due to closure of educational institutions.
Already suffering due to extremely poor connectivity and crushingly low coverage, the Gilgit-Baltistan region’s access to internet has further spiraled down during the last few months, increasing frustration the region.
— Yawar Abbas #Internet4GilgitBaltistan (@YawarOfficial) July 6, 2020
Hundreds of students and professionals have also taken to the streets during the last few weeks protesting to demand faster, fourth generation (4G), internet and cellular services. Protest demonstrations have been held in almost all major cities and downs, as well as some villages.
Special Communications Organization, a semi-government entity, has defended its services by blaming ‘increased usage’ for the internet outages.
— Muhammad Ilyas (@Ilyas_siachen) July 7, 2020
Critics, however, have been saying through press statements and social media posts that SCO lacks the capacity to provide internet services to the region.
The users have been demanding opening of the region for private service providers. The critics believe that increased competition will ensure provision of better services in the region.
Elon Musk is worried about dying before he lands on Mars but a good #internetconnection has become a dream for people of #GilgitBaltistan. #Internet4GilgitBaltistan #imrankhanPTI #OnlineClasses #HEC pic.twitter.com/ztTC8JNkwD
— Saqib Ali (@mrsaqibali) July 7, 2020
SCO, on the other hand, maintains that there is no restriction on private companies to operate in the region. The claim that private companies are not operating in the region because the consumer base is smaller and profit margins are less. This claim is rejected by critics who believe that SCO is acting like a monopoly in the region, by blocking entrance of private service providers, through court cases. SCO denies these allegations.