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LAHORE: The Pakistan Software Houses Association (PASHA) on Thursday requested the Punjab government to exempt the Information Technology (IT) and related services from smart lockdown in Punjab, which it believed will inadvertently affect the IT exporters, call centres and related businesses.

In a letter to Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi and the members of governmental agencies, PASHA Chairman Muhammad Zohaib Khan said that the IT business owners have sown grave concern over the Punjab government’s order, imposing ‘restricted movement’ due to the spread of Conjunctivitis’ in certain areas.

He noted that the IT and IT-Enabled Services (ITES) sector has been a cornerstone of Pakistan’s economic growth and has been declared an essential service. “This sector not only contributes significantly to the country’s exports but also enhances the global image of ‘Brand Pakistan’ as a hub for technological innovation and service excellence,” he added.

He said that the order, as it stands, risks considerable harm to the IT sector; it will disrupt IT exports. The restricted movement in the primary hub of IT exports will halt operations, leading to failure in meeting international clients’ deadlines, which can result in substantial financial losses and contractual penalties.

Moreover, he averred that it will damage Pakistan’s image in the world; the interruption in services will tarnish the international image of Pakistan as a reliable IT service provider. This damage to reputation is long-lasting and far more challenging to repair, he pointed out.

According to him, their global clients rely on their promise of continuity and reliability. An unforeseen shutdown of IT services will breed customer distrust and lead to clients seeking services from other countries, resulting in a loss of business in the short-term and potentially a reduction in foreign IT investments in the long run.

“In light of these concerns, we urge the Punjab government to issue an immediate addendum to the notification, exempting the IT exporters, call centres, and related businesses from this order. We recommend that the IT companies be allowed to continue their operations under strict health safety protocols as they have been during the pandemic,” he said.

He said they are aligned with the government’s intent to safeguard public health and are committed to undertaking all necessary measures to ensure the safety of their employees and the community.

“However, a blanket restriction that inadvertently affects essential services is counterproductive. We request the government’s urgent intervention to prevent a crisis that could have long-lasting negative consequences for one of the most vibrant and promising sectors in Pakistan’s economy,” he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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