- Says individuals and businesses rely on connectivity for their livelihoods
The GSMA, a body that represents the interests of global mobile operators, expressed concern regarding the adverse impact of restrictions on mobile broadband on citizens and businesses in Pakistan.
In its letter, a copy of which is available with Business Recorder, the body addresses IT Minister Syed Amin Ul Haque.
“In today’s digital societies, individuals and businesses rely on connectivity for their livelihoods and access to essential services and information,” stated GSMA Head of Asia Pacific Julian Gorman in the letter.
On Tuesday, the government of Pakistan blocked mobile broadband and social media websites in the aftermath of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest and subsequent riots. They are yet to be restored on the fourth day of suspension.
Following the suspension of mobile broadband services, sources in the telecom sector stated that telecom operators incurred an estimated loss of Rs1.64 billion in revenue while the government endured a dent worth Rs574 million in tax revenue till Thursday.
“Prolonged restrictions can also have far reaching effects on citizens’ health, education, social and economic welfare,” the GSMA letter stated. “In addition to the damage faced by businesses, restrictions can hit credit and investment plans, ultimately damaging the country’s reputation for managing the economy and foreign investment.”
Pakistan Freelancers Association (PAFLA) Chairman Ibrahim Amin said Pakistan’s IT-based freelancers are losing $2 million daily solely on account of this suspension besides facing a decline in credibility among the international clients.
Meanwhile, the GSMA discouraged orders pertaining to internet service restrictions.
“SROs should be implemented after continuous monitoring of the situation and its impact, together with analysis and dynamic decision-making processes allowing for swift restoration of services.
“The powers to restrict services should be exercised carefully in exceptional and pre-defined circumstances, and only if absolutely necessary and proportionate to achieve a specified and legitimate aim that is consistent with relevant laws, internationally recognised human rights conventions and the ITU constitution,” the GSMA letter added.
The GSMA urged the government to lift the suspension on internet services and restore its access as soon as possible to ensure business continuity.
In February this year, IT Minister Amin Ul Haque said closing social media sites and applications was not a solution to the problem and vowed to never shut them down.
“Now it has been decided that no website or app will be closed in any case,” Haque had said while speaking at an event titled “Accelerating US Investments in Pakistan” in Karachi.
Pakistan has a history of suspending internet services, banning social media platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, Wikipedia and recently Twitter and Facebook as well.
Just three months after the minister’s remarks, the country saw a ban on social media platforms as well as mobile broadband services suspension.