ISLAMABAD: Mobile phone service will remain suspended in the federal capital and other high-security zones throughout the country on Sunday, the Independence Day, sources from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) told DawnNews on Saturday.

The step has been taken to ensure security on the occasion of country's Independence Day, they added.

The services are expected to be unavailable from 6am to 11am in the capital and from 6am to 2pm in high-security zones in other big cities including Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Muzaffarabad.

The mobile phone services will remain suspended in the areas located under a 10 kilometre radius from the Convention Centre in Islamabad, sources maintained.

They further informed that the suspension of phone services is being carried out on the instructions of the interior ministry.

According to the report titled Security v Access: The Impact of Mobile Network Shutdowns, Pakistan's economy is severely impacted by network shutdowns.

Since the first wide-scale shutdowns, the government often instructs telecommunication operators to suspend mobile and/or Internet networks where intelligence indicates a threat to national security, especially in major cities.

Many experts argue that network shutdowns violate a range of human rights, and are neither necessary nor proportionate responses to potential violent activities, the report says.

The Pakistani government’s security concerns are valid and it has an obligation to take all reasonable steps to protect civilian lives, the report says, while adding "experts are concerned that network shutdowns are becoming the norm, rather than an exception, and are being utilised as the main strategy to curb terrorism, when instead, improving other methods of investigation is required."

Timeline of shutdowns 2012-2015

Impacts of mobile services blackouts

Using Telenor Pakistan as a case study, the report underlines the following adverse impacts of network shutdowns to be considered by human rights stakeholders:

Fully functioning communication systems are essential in emergency situations, the report says. According to a survey conducted for the research, a major concern for citizens stuck in protests or violence while cell phone services are suspended is their inability to call friends or relatives for help, or trace their family and friends — which can contribute to the panic.

"Relying on network shutdowns to prevent terrorist attacks deprives both citizens and law enforcement alike the opportunity to use communication tools in the fight against terrorism."


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