Mobile Cellular Services have been closed down in major cities of Pakistan including Lahore, Karachi, Multan and Quetta. According to reports the services have been shut down on the directions of Interior Minister Rehman Malik on account of security issues.
According to reports, on the direction of Interior Ministry, PTA issued a letter to all 5 cellular operators to remain ready for shutting down the cellular services in different cities of Pakistan to avoid any untoward incident on the occasion of Chaand Raat.
The planned duration of service shut down is from 8 PM tonight ( August 19) till 11 AM tomorrow (August 20) but the service may remain suspended beyond the planned schedule.
Although, all cellular companies complied with the government’s directions but this ill-planned decision has created panic among the masses as they were uninformed about the closure of their mobile phone services.
On Chaand Raat, it is customary for most of the families to go out and do Eid shopping but mobile phone service suspension has made life miserable for people on the roads as their family members back home are extremely worried after watching news reports on the TV channels that Government stopped cellular services to defeat terrorist from doing any unwanted activity.
We were able to talk to few people on roads who termed it failure of intelligence agencies and an act of betray on Government’s part who deprived people of very basic right of communication. Muhammad Usman, a shopkeeper at famous Anaarkali Bazar Lahore said, “Government could have tackled it in much better way. They could have informed people before hand by using various means of communication or even SMS service about this possible disruption in service on massive level so that citizens could change their schedules accordingly. Now at this time, when the entire city is out of their homes, this silly decision has even worsened the situation”.
A shopper Arif Hameed expressed, “What if some incident happens tonight in real, what way of communication we will have on our disposal. How we will call help, we do not even remember the landline numbers as we are so dependent on mobile phones”.
An official of the telecom company on the condition of anonymity said, “this happens during wars when governments really try to stop the flow of information in favor of their own countries to avoid the state of anarchy”.
Even the TV channels were not informed prior closing mobile services. It dawned on them around 8 PM tonight when mobile services stopped responding and they started reporting this shutdown in their own way which caused a situation of uncertainty until they ran a complete version of Interior Minister Rehman Malik who is usually famous for disrupting cellular services in past in the name of security.
Despite of his previous tall claims of eradicating terrorism by eliminating unregistered mobile phones SIMs the problem still exists which is very much evident from today’s service closure.
On this very day of Eid, he seems to have turned all the joys into fears. Perhaps he is seeing no difference between mobile phone service and pillion riding which governments ban on every national event in the name of security. It is also very surprising that all the security threats are in provinces whereas Islamabad is having uninterrupted mobile services.
Tonight, TV channels were reporting his claims of ensuring peace in the major cities of Pakistan and the news about firing and killing in Karachi and Quetta at the same time. How successful this shutdown of cellular services is turning out to be is best known to him.
This shutdown may be reviewed by foreign investors very critically especially when cash starved Government is extremely desperate for awarding 3G licenses to save its financial skin. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has already called licensing as life line for PPP Government.
In Pakistan, this is the first ever incident of suspending the cellular services on emergency basis by force. Industry analysts fear that Government may make it a routine exercise in future for crushing any anti-government movement. In that case, the highest revenue earning sector of economy today will become puppet in the hands of government and intelligence agencies.
Update (August 19 11:30 PM):