In a strongly worded letter dated January 7, 2024, the Telecom Operators Association has raised serious concerns about recent incidents of internet throttling and the blocking of social media platforms, adversely affecting the population of Pakistan. The letter, addressed to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Major General (Retd) Hafeezur Rehman, vehemently opposed the social media blackout and highlighted the negative consequences for Pakistan’s global image.
Kamal Ahmed, the Secretary General of the association, decried the recurrent instances of social media platform blockage, specifically referencing events on December 17, 2023, and the latest disruption on January 7, 2024. The association emphasized the adverse impact of such disruptions on the government’s goal of positioning Pakistan as a prominent Information and Communication Technology (ICT) hub.
Ahmed underscored the considerable inconvenience faced by citizens due to the abrupt blockage of social media platforms. The flood of inquiries inundating the helplines of telecom operators left them unable to provide satisfactory answers, resulting in an escalation of consumer outcry and dissatisfaction.
Media reports indicated a complete blackout of popular social media sites on Sunday, coinciding with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s plan to launch its manifesto ahead of elections and raise funds for a poll campaign through a telethon.
The association highlighted the crucial role of digital connectivity in people’s lives, business continuity, national productivity, and the overall perception of the country on the global stage. Expressing concerns about the detrimental effects of such actions, the association urged the PTA to conduct a thorough investigation and issue a detailed statement clarifying the incidents while ensuring preventive measures for the future.
While reiterating their commitment to supporting the government’s initiatives to transform Pakistan into an ICT powerhouse, the telecom operators cautioned against resorting to censorship measures that could impede the country’s technological progress.
As of now, PTA has not responded to the association’s concerns, leaving many stakeholders apprehensive about the future stability and accessibility of internet services in Pakistan. The letter concludes by noting that amidst the aftermath of these internet disruptions, stakeholders eagerly await a response from the regulatory body to address the concerns raised by the Telecom Operators Association.