The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said on Friday that mobile broadband service was being restored across Pakistan after a three-day closure.
PTA spokesperson Malahat Obaid confirmed the development to Dawn.com, saying that the service would be restored in a staggered manner.
Meanwhile, the PTA said in its statement that access to social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and YouTube was also being restored in the country.
The regulatory authority had suspended mobile broadband and restricted access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube on the interior ministry’s instructions in the wake of violent protests sparked by PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest on Tuesday.
A PTA spokesperson told Dawn at the time that the data service had been suspended as it was helping spread violence across the country.
The decision was taken after social media was flooded with footage of a mob clashing with police in Karachi, attacking and entering the army’s head office, General Headquarters, in Rawalpindi and vandalising the official residence of a high-ranking military officer in Lahore.
As a result of the suspension of data service, businesses suffered significant losses, reflected by a 50 per cent slump in the point-of-sale transactions routed through the country’s main digital payment systems a day after Imran’s arrest.
And despite calls for the restoration of the data service from within and outside the country, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said earlier today that it would remain suspended until people involved in violence and damaging properties during recent protests were caught.
Calls for restoration of service
The Amnesty International termed the ‘indefinite’ mobile internet shutdown in the country a “clear violation of people’s rights to access information and free expression”.
The restrictions must be lifted immediately, it said.
Earlier, more than 100 members of the business community and civil society released a joint statement, saying: “We … are deeply troubled by and condemn the recently reported and ongoing use of partial and complete internet shutdowns, as well as targeted content and app blocking, following the nationwide protests.”
They said such shutdowns and blocking or filtering of internet services “unjustifiably limit the rights of peaceful assembly and freedoms of association and expression”.
Moreover, “tens of millions of Pakistanis rely on internet-dependent services to connect with each other and to undertake essential business activities. By blocking, filtering, or shutting down these services, the government is eroding civic space; fostering a climate of economic uncertainty and disrupting access to healthcare, emergency services and financial services”.
They said such internet disruptions had a negative impact on Pakistani startups, which attracted more than $700 million in investment during 2022 and 2023 and “are playing a critical role in promoting entrepreneurship, job creation, and digitisation across the economy”.
The affected people, they said, also included the hundreds and thousands of freelancers and digital creators.
“We emphatically call on the government of Pakistan to immediately lift restrictions intended to disrupt or prevent the citizens from accessing and disseminating information online and from communicating safely and securely.
“We also urge the government to recognise internet access as a basic fundamental right which can’t be taken away arbitrarily,” they said.
Meanwhile, telecom and ride-hailing companies had also criticised the government’s move and called for the restoration of mobile broadband.
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