Cellphone service suspension irks Karachiites
By: S. Raza Hassan
KARACHI: Cellphone service was abruptly suspended in the city on Friday morning for more than seven hours by the government, citing a terrorist threat aimed at fomenting sectarian unrest.
While the prime minister, the chief of the army staff and the chief of the naval staff happened to be in the city on Friday, home department officials denied that the suspension of the cellphone service was related to their security.
Sources said the cellular services were suspended on a request of the Sindh government. Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who was in Islamabad, said that mobile phone service was suspended in Karachi due to a terrorism threat and security concerns, according to the official news agency.
“The nefarious designs of terrorists were foiled as not a single incident of targeted killing was reported in Karachi on Friday,” he said. However, the unannounced closure of cellphone service from 11am to 6pm caused immense inconvenience to the people who were taken by surprise.
Previously the government suspended the cellphone service only during Eid and Muharram days and on the day nationwide protests were held — amid much senseless violence and ransacking — against the anti-Islam film in September.
“We had specific threat information about a terrorist attack which could have further fuelled the sectarian tension in the city,” said a senior official of the Sindh government without shedding further light on its nature.
Additional Chief Secretary (home) Waseem Ahmed said: “We are aware of the inconvenience caused to the people by the suspension of the cellular service. It was for this reason that before requesting the federal government for the closure of the services we made sure that the information or intelligence was not general but specific.”
Solely due to the threat perception the services were put off for Friday, Mr Ahmed added. During the current year, 41 improvised explosion devices connected to cellphones have been used in explosions or deactivated so far, the home official said.
Sources privy to the Friday developments said that a religious congregation could have been a possible target of terrorists. An IED could have been used to carry out a terrorist attack, the sources said.
Simultaneously, the city played host to several high-profile personalities including Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, who arrived here on Friday after attending the fifth anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. He was accompanied by federal ministers Qamar Zaman Kaira, Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah, Syed Naveed Qamar, Nazar Muhammad Gondal, and Pakistan Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman. From the airport, the Prime Minister proceeded to the Governor’s House.
Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited Karachi on Friday to attend the war games concluding session of Karachi Corps. The war games being conducted at various corps headquarters are part of the Azm-i-Nau series of exercises which started with the central command war games in May.
Similarly, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Mohammad Asif Sandila was in the city on Friday to award degrees at the 24th convocation of the Pakistan Navy Engineering College, a constituent college of the National University of Science and Technology, Islamabad, held at the Bahria auditorium, Karsaz.