ISLAMABAD: The capital administration has allowed about 900 micro banking merchants of mobile companies to open for three days.

The administration on Monday lifted restrictions on shops that operate online payment services.

A notification issued by the deputy commissioner said: “Keeping in view the difficulties faced by general public in sending and receiving remittances, I hereby notify that all Easypaisa, U-paisa, Jazz Cash and other online payment services shall remain open for period of three days from 12pm to 4pm in Islamabad territory.”

There were two issues faced by residents due to the market closures.

The payment of internet bills and mobile phone top-ups and transfer of money mainly by those who have families in villages or other cities.

Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat said the decision was made after taking all stakeholders into confidence.

Precautionary restrictions already implemented such as social distancing by customers will have to be strictly followed.

“The authorities should ensure that the directives are disseminated to the ground level too,” said a mobile service retailer in Shazad Town that has been declared a quarantine and outsiders are barred from that area. But the locals can open their food and grocery shops.

There are around 900 such vendors in the city, and most of them are merchants of multiple telecom operators and retailers of Easypaisa, U-paisa and Jazz Cash.

There are over 2,000 retailers in the capital who provide only mobile and internet service top-ups.

However, after the expiry of the relaxation period, around 30pc of the mobile retailers and merchants will continue to operate as general merchants and grocery stores.

While telecom companies are advertising that customers should shift to their digital banking, only 7-10pc of mobile phone customers have accounts of Jazz Cash, Easypaisa and Upaisa.

There are up to 165 million subscribers of four cellular companies in the country and more than 98pc of them are prepaid customers, who are facing serious problems to recharge their accounts.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2020