DRM-GB seeks apology from SCO over smear campaign against students demanding high-speed internet
Gilgit (TP) July 12, 2020: The Digital Rights Movement, Gilgit-Baltistan — a platform raising the voice against the poor internet service in the mountainous region — has sought a formal apology from the military-run Special Communication Organisation (SCO) over its smear campaign against the students seeking high-speed internet for taking online classes.
In a press release, the Digital Rights Movement, Gilgit-Baltistan (DRM-GB) said that after the #Internet4GilgitBaltistan became a top trend on Twitter in Pakistan, the SCO instead of coming up with a solution to the poor internet service across GB has launched an uncalled-for counter-campaign on the microblogging and social networking service, which is at best unwarranted and unjustifiable.
“ #Internet4GilgitBaltistan became a top trend on Twitter in Pakistan after a youth-led movement took it to the social media highlighting the struggles and sufferings of students with the poor internet service provided in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). The situation put fellow youth from GB residing in the cities, adding more voice and energy to the movement. Supporters from the rest of the country and abroad also joined the campaign. Since SCO is the sole internet provider, other than a few cellular internet providers in GB, the organisation came under severe criticism as a majority of the users and customers aren’t satisfied with the services provided by SCO,” the DRM-GB said in the press release.
It added: “The resentment was expressed using satire, memes and even technical suggestions on how to improve the internet service in addition to taking into account personal experiences of students, professionals and business owners. The trend and the movement are entirely based on genuine demands for the provision of a better internet service in the region. There is no other hidden agenda of the campaign that SCO and a few people have tried to associate with the campaign. In response to this worldwide campaign, the SCO instead of considering improving its services started a counter-campaign with a trend mentioning #SCOzindabad.”
The press release further said: “Posts shared through the official social media accounts have blamed the students and other participants of the campaign as ‘chaos creators and supporters of anti-state sentiments’. Before this, the SCO director-general had asked, during a press briefing, that if the internet is not working in GB, how the campaign trended on Twitter, which negates the contribution of the GB diaspora. By accusing the young people asking for the fast internet as ‘anti-state’, the SCO has just proved its incompetence in providing quality services to its users across GB, which is and should be the primary focus of the organisation.”
It said that “Digital Rights Movement Gilgit-Baltistan earnestly recognizes the contribution made by SCO since 1976. We also acknowledge SCO’s unmatched services to the nation while laying the optical fibre along the Karakorum Highway and setting up telecommunication systems in the far-flung and mountainous regions of GB to ensure seamless communication and digital connectivity. We reaffirm that those sacrifices must not go in vain. The people of this marginalised territory deserve a better internet facility in the 21st century. The Digital Rights Movement, Gilgit-Baltistan demands a formal apology from SCO for hurting the students and the youth of GB who have been striving for their legitimate digital rights of the internet and basic right to access to information and knowledge. The peaceful students’ and youth’s struggle could never evoke anti-state sentiments, ethnic divide and cultural disparity. Therefore, the narrative propagated by the SCO on social media is highly condemned.”
It should be mentioned here that after the long closure caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the refusal by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to promote students without evaluation and examination, universities formally started online classes from June 1.
With the resumption of the online classes, a large number of university students, especially those living in far-flung areas including in GB, have consistently been complaining about the difficulty in taking classes owing to poor internet service as the SCO, has failed to ensure uninterrupted internet service for the students taking online classes.
The HEC has allowed universities and degree-awarding institutions to continue teaching for the Spring Semester 2020 by using a variety of distance learning approaches including the internet, one-way or two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, broadband lines, fibre optics, satellite, or wireless communication devices, audio-conferencing, or sharing of CDs for students having no direct internet facility. However, the students of tribal areas, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Balochistan have lodged their complained through the social media that they are facing problems in taking online classes due to the poor internet service being provided by different telecom companies and the army-led SCO.
Interestingly, almost without evaluating the preparedness of universities in offering online classes after the training of the faculty staff, the HEC has left the students at the mercy of their respective institutions as several universities have failed to put in place a robust and functional Learning Management System (LMS) for the online classes.