ISLAMABAD: A few hours after Interior Minis­ter Rana Sanaullah on Friday proclaimed to keep the internet blocked “till the arrest of miscreants who set fire to people’s houses,” mobile data services and the suspended social media platforms were restored.

The services, which have been suspended since violent protests broke out following the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan on May 9, were restored at around 10pm.

After Mr Khan was granted bail by the Islamabad High Court, the interior ministry withdrew its advisory issued on May 9 to suspend mobile data service and social media platforms, including Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, a Pakistan Telec­ommun­ication Authority spokesperson told Dawn.

Earlier, while talking to the media, the interior minister hinted that the government was in no mood to restore social media platforms and mobile data services.

“It will take some time to arrest the miscreants who set fire to people’s houses and the internet services might remain blocked till then,” he added.

However, the government itself, was under severe pressure from several quarters to restore the internet, sources told Dawn.

The IT and telecommunication minister had also expressed concerns over the prolonged suspension and directly approached Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to restore services.

GSMA Asia Pacific head Julian Gorman also wrote to the IT and telecommunication ministry to restore mobile data service.

The body, which represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, said the restrictions were causing harm to businesses and eventually damaging Pakistan’s reputation for managing the economy and foreign investment.

“The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, and is concerned about the impact that the current restrictions are having on citizens and businesses in Pakistan,” Mr Gorman wrote in the letter.

“In today’s digital societies individuals and businesses rely on connectivity for their livelihoods and access to essential services and information, prolonged restrictions can also have far-reaching effects on citizens’ health, education, social and economic welfare.”

Locally, telecom companies also expressed dismay over the suspension of mobile data service.

Jazz CEO Aamir Ibrahim said mobile broadband was the lifeline of the digital ecosystem and a critical enabler of productivity across all sectors.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2023

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