There have been many censorships that took place whose casualty has been technology, whether it is internet censorship of YouTube or mobile censorship with no telecommunication network service available. The YouTube censorship happened due to conflicts in what was termed as the freedom of speech as against what is considered blasphemous by Muslims. Whereas, the mobile network censorship happens whenever there is a “threat of terrorism”, especially during such events of national and religious importance when there is a chance of gatherings.
The assumption is that terrorism could be stopped when the telecommunication services are curtailed. Although, many other countries are using technology to track down and monitor terrorist threats through such available means as telecommunication networks, but not here in Pakistan. The negative impact of all this falls on telecom companies who suffer losses of more than a billion rupees. Already the telecommunication sector is under restrains due to economic degradation.
The cellular mobile operators (CMOs) are said to silently comply with the government’s order as they have no other choice when it comes to the matter of national security. However, the critics of this measure are free to complain and point out the lack of sense in this. The measure of not allowing the sale of unregistered SIMs is understandable and effective, but suspending of mobile services is not as there could be many other emergency situations which can rise and people need to use their mobiles to attend to them.
The PTA passes the orders for mobile censorship as given by the interior ministry and the ministry of information technology. Just the recent mobile network censorship that happened on the Chehlum of Imam Hussain has caused the loss of Rs.800 million, however the government will give relief to the telecom companies with Rs.250 million tax revenues, according to the report. Around 80% of the customers were affected from the total of some 96 million mobile service subscribers.
All this has also made foreign investors reluctant to shift their businesses to Pakistan because to attract investment certainty is necessary. Thus, the telecom companies are not satisfied with the way the government has been retreating to the strategy of mobile censorship, but none of them want to sue the government on this matter despite the Pakistan Telecommunication Re-organisation Act, which gives them a chance to reclaim their losses. But, the government being in a financially tight situation that it currently is, not only will it be hard to win against the government, also it will be dragging the issue without any effective results.
The measure that the telecom companies can undertake is to negotiate on better ways to deal with the threat of terrorism and national security instead of taking recourse to service suspension, as it is neither in favour of the network providers nor the customers. The telecom stake-holders have to sit together with the government and the customers’ rights should also be represented for mobile service accessibility.