Pakistan suspends mobile service as citizens vote

Millions of Pakistanis began voting as authorities suspended mobile phone and data services nationwide on Thursday for election day, in a move a digital rights group said was "inherently undemocratic".

Authorities said they were suspending mobile telephone services across the country during voting "to maintain law and order" following a bloody election campaign — including two blasts on Wednesday.

At least 28 people were killed in twin bomb blasts outside candidates' offices on Wednesday in attacks claimed by the ISIL, and two candidates have been shot dead in the lead-up to the vote.

Nighat Dad, a lawyer who runs the not-for-profit organisation Digital Rights Foundation, said the outage "is an attack on the democratic rights of Pakistanis".

"Shutting down mobile phone services is not a solution to national security concerns. If you shut down access to information you create more chaos. How do you call (anyone) if, God forbid, there is an attack?"

She added that there is more room for disinformation to spread, including about reports of unconfirmed attacks.

"People will of course put their safety first if they are unable to verify rumours of an attack in their area," she said, noting such disinformation could cause voters to stay away from the polls.

Pollsters have predicted a low turnout from the country's 128 million eligible voters following a lacklustre election campaign overshadowed by the jailing of former prime minister Imran Khan, and the hobbling of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party by the military-led establishment.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is expected to win the most seats in Thursday's vote, with analysts saying its 74-year-old founder Nawaz Sharif has won the blessing of...

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