ISLAMABAD: Despite specific instructions from the interior ministry that mobile phone networks be shut down for up to 14 hours on Saturday and Sunday because of security concerns related to Muharram, the service remained open in Peshawar and some other towns in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Saturday.
Although the province has borne the brunt of the terror spectre stalking the country, the service remained shut for only three hours in its capital – from 3pm to 6pm.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik did not mince words in coming out with a warning to mobile phone companies: “Be ready for a raid by the Federal Investigation Agency if you do not shut your services in specified areas.
“FIA men will come and forcefully shut down the towers operating in areas designated for a shutdown. There cannot be any leniency with anyone,” he said, naming a number of companies which were operating in Rawalpindi and some other parts of the country, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The minister even blamed Saturday’s blast in Dera Ismail Khan on continued operation of mobile phone service.
“The service continued on the outskirts of D.I. Khan where the blast took place (on Saturday). They did not take the advisory seriously, but I tell you we will not tolerate such negligence.
“A list of places where mobile service should not be available is with FIA and if the phones are found active in any such area, the agency’s officials will shut down the towers by force.”
He thanked Ulema, both Shia and Sunni, for doing their bit to ensure sectarian harmony during Muharram. He met Shia religious leader Agha Syed Hamid Ali Shah Moosavi during a visit to an Imambargah.
However, a TNFJ spokesman quoted Agha Moosavi as saying that the interior ministry was good merely for issuing warnings.
“The rulers should also do something for safety of life and limb.”
Mobile phone companies said they had blocked their services in accordance with the orders, but some areas could have been overlooked because the directives had been received piecemeal.
“The first letter from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) came at 11.30am on Friday and it only mentioned Karachi, Quetta and the G-9 sector of Islamabad,” an executive said.
He said directives from the PTA continued to pour in till late in the evening, making it difficult for mobile firms to block all radio base stations.