In Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan, escalating sectarian tensions between Shias and Sunnis have led to an extended suspension of all internet services by the local administration.
The tensions between the Shia majority and the Sunni community have been simmering for weeks, culminating in large-scale protests against Islamabad’s recent amendments to blasphemy laws. It has been a fortnight since the internet services have been suspended by the occupying government of Gilgit-Baltistan. POGB is already grappling with poverty, had limited internet access available in select areas.
Residents had just begun to explore the potential of online businesses and educational opportunities when the Pakistan-backed administration in the illegally occupied territory abruptly halted internet services. This move has left numerous students in Gilgit city without access to their regular online classes. The most affected are the students and the professionals, who are heavily dependent on the internet services.
Recently, the Gilgit Baltistan Freelancer Association (GBFA) wrote a letter to the Chief Secretary of the occupying Gilgit-Baltistan administration. The letter underscored the problem faced by almost 2,000 freelancers whose online job depends on 4G services. The abrupt internet cut off has made them vulnerable for unemployment.
GBFA has urged the occupying government to restore the internet services with immediate effect. However, the concern raised by them is the real intention of Pakistan. As per GBFA, some freelancer individuals and companies are relocating themselves outside the POGB. Unfortunately, that is what Pakistan wants. Economically self-dependent and educated POGB will eventually challenge the illegitimate claim of Pakistan over the region. On the contrary, if the region remains disputed and in crisis, it could be easily exploited by the Pak Army and the titular government in both Pakistan and POGB.