Tech entrepreneurs and experts urge Pakistan govt to lift internet restrictions amid losses
Islamabad: Pakistani entrepreneurs, tech experts and businesses are calling on the government to immediately lift restrictions on the internet, citing economic losses and disruption of access to healthcare, emergency, and financial services.
Mobile broadband services in Pakistan have been suspended indefinitely on the instructions of the interior ministry, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
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The decision comes amidst ongoing protests across the country following the arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan on May 9. Access to social media platforms Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube was also restricted across the country, according to Netblocks, which monitors internet connectivity worldwide.
The indefinite internet and social media blockade has significantly affected ride-hailing and online food delivery businesses. With ongoing protests in big cities like Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, and Rawalpindi, healthcare services have also been impacted.
Kiran Hashmi, a resident of Rawalpindi, expressed concerns that “We are scared to go out due to violent protests. And now, I can’t even contact the doctor on WhatsApp due to internet blockade.” She told Gulf News that her mother urgently needs medical attention. The disruptions have also had a negative impact on Pakistani startups, freelancers, and digital creators who rely on the internet for their livelihoods.
Tech associations and telecom experts have criticised the government for suspending mobile internet services. “Shutting down the internet is not a solution to anything. It creates more problems than it solves,” tweeted Aamir Hafeez Ibrahim, the CEO of Pakistan’s largest telecom company Jazz.
“For almost 24 hours, 125 million Pakistanis have been without mobile internet — a critical tool in emergencies and productivity,” he wrote. According to industry sources, the telecom sector has reportedly incurred revenue losses of approximately Rs2.46 billion in three days, while the government’s tax revenue from broadband services has suffered losses of around Rs860 million due to the blockade since May 9.
Pakistan’s IT industry association P@SHA called it “an alarming situation” and said that the industry is losing an “estimated $3 to 4 million per day.” Pakistan earned around $2 billion from IT exports in 2022, critical for its struggling foreign exchange needs.
Muhammad Zohaib Khan, the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) chairman, strongly criticized the suspension that has brought the IT industry to a grinding halt since Tuesday evening.
He emphasised that the “Internet is our lifeline, our office, our communications infrastructure, and IT industry cannot operate without it”.
Khan demanded the immediate resumption of internet services, pointing out that IT and IT-enabled companies were already under pressure and a possible decline in IT service exports due to unfavorable governmental policies.
Source: World Asia