THE cost for overseas Pakistanis for calling Pakistani landlines and cellphones has increased by 300 to 800 per cent with effect from Oct 1, depending on the country and network.

This big increase is a result of the PTA’s decision to implement the controversial International Clearing House (ICH). This move, which is claimed to reduce illegal calls to Pakistan, has resulted in tremendous penalty for overseas Pakistanis for calling their families and friends in Pakistan.

Call charges from the UK to Pakistan have already been increased from three to six cents per minute to as high as up to 24 cents per minute. In comparison, charges for neighbouring countries India, China and Bangladesh are one penny to six pence per minute depending on the network.

According to media reports, monthly incoming international traffic to Pakistan is 1.5 billion minutes per month, which means overseas Pakistanis will have to pay extra $120-150 million to the PTA for calling their family back home.

During the current economic downturn in Pakistan, overseas Pakistanis will also be discouraged from sending remittances and investing in Pakistan.

It should be noted that overseas Pakistanis play a very important role in the country’s economy by remitting billions of dollars every year, and the PTA’s decision to penalise them should be taken back with immediate effect.

IRFAN HUSSAIN London

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