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IT was a move that left many scratching their heads in disbelief in the first place, and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has just made it worse. Last year, the PTA issued a directive to cellular mobile operators that late-night talk and SMS packages offered at cheap rates be curtailed because it was an issue of public morals. Apparently, the idea of young people chatting to each other through the midnight hours was too much for the regulatory authority to stomach. Now, on Thursday, it issued another directive saying that all such incentive-packages, regardless of time of day, should be wound up because they were “contrary to the moral values of society”. Clearly, Pakistan has solved all its other problems if an important regulatory body finds itself seized with such an issue.

The PTA has cited a survey it carried out as evidence that the citizenry wants such a ban in place. This is hardly surprising. Even as the country spirals down a vortex of violence and militancy, it is the affairs of young people that too many remain fixated upon. As it is, ours is a conservative society. And now, perhaps because of the current wave of religiosity, there is a stronger tendency than before to clamp down on the activities of young people with whatever means are available. A few months ago, it was precisely such views that caused the shutdown of sheesha cafés, which had become popular amongst younger circles in certain urban areas. The intermingling of young men and women is not a matter that should concern the state which has nothing to gain except opprobrium by acting as self-appointed guardian of society’s morals. Whether the PTA even has the authority to pass such directives is questionable. It should mind its own business.