Virus lockdown spikes Pakistan’s Internet usage but capacity sufficient — PTA

A view of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) building in Islamabad, Pakistan, January 22, 2020. (AN photo)
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Updated 07 April 2020

Virus lockdown spikes Pakistan’s Internet usage but capacity sufficient — PTA

  • Nationwide lockdown has spiked Internet usage by 15 percent
  • 82.12 million people in Pakistan use some type of Internet connectivity platform

Islamabad: The nationwide lockdown to mitigate the spread of coronavirus pandemic has forced majority of the country into imposed isolation pushing people to work from home impacting the Internet bandwidth which spiked significantly after Pakistan announced shutdowns last month but the bandwidth utilization has stabilized, said the national telecom regulator on Monday.

“The Internet usage touched its peak in the first week of the lockdown and has been stable for last few days,” said Tayyaba Iftikhar, assistant director of public relations for Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) in an email response to Arab News adding the “on average, our bandwidth utilization has increased between 12 and 15 percent.

Pakistan’s current projected population by United Nations is at 220 million but according to the government’s bureau of statistics census conducted in 2017, it is around 208 million, of which 82.12 million people use some type of Internet connectivity platform, said the PTA official.

Asked if the bandwidth available is parallel or higher than the burgeoning demand as all segments of society, business sectors, educational institutes, and government divisions have augmented their utilization to avoid physical contact or communication, Iftikhar replied: “Pakistan has enough capacity to cater for any projected requirements of telecom subscribers.

“Service providers commission additional bandwidth based upon their needs” and in case of a of undersea cable breakdown, “telecom networks and the international Internet bandwidth providers have sufficient redundancy,” she said.

Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK), established in 1997, claims on its webpage fact section updated in February, that the country has an Internet bandwidth capacity of more than 2500 Gbps combined from two authorized capacity suppliers — Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) and Transworld — with five undersea cables connecting the country to the world and four companies providing the domestic fiber backbones.

“In this exceptional situation, all operators have been performing at optimum level without any serious issues so far,” said Iftikhar. “Logistical arrangements have been a major challenge for the operators but that is being managed reasonably despite social distancing and movement restrictions.” 

“PTA is maintaining close liaison with all stakeholders to resolve any challenges in this regard,” the official said. 

However, complaints over Internet connectivity and slow browsing persist and Pakistan’s President Dr. Arif Alvi took notice on Monday during a briefing “on the issues faced by Internet users, particularly students, due to pressure on existing Internet infrastructure, as people had started working from home and students were getting online education due to corona pandemic,” according to an official statement.

The regulator said that it is continuously monitoring the situation and working with all telecom operators to provide maximum possible facilitation to consumers through special Internet packages.

Iftikhar said: “All possible measures were being taken to facilitate operators and IT enabled companies to keep their networks and connectivity up and running.”

Responding on the question concerning restrictions on virtual private networks, voice over Internet protocol, video conferencing applications raised by ISPAK as these arguably secure means of communication are the most commonly used by people working from home, the PTA official refuted the claim and said, “PTA has not blocked legal VPN, VoIP and video conferencing applications.”

“Action is only taken against such traffic which is used by unlicensed operators terminating illegal calls on licensed PSTN (public switched telephone) networks. Therefore, no issue is being faced in terms of those working from home.”

UNGA adopts Pakistan-sponsored resolution on respect for ‘sacred religious symbols’

Updated 42 min 18 sec ago

UNGA adopts Pakistan-sponsored resolution on respect for ‘sacred religious symbols’

  • Protests broke out in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan last month, over cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) 
  • Deliberate vilification and negative stereotyping of Islam perpetuates ‘clash of civilizations,’ Pakistan’s envoy to the UN says

ISLAMABAD: Despite opposition from the European Union and other western nations and India, the UN General Assembly Wednesday adopted a Pakistan and Philippines sponsored resolution on inter-religious dialogue that emphasized the need to respect “sacred religious symbols,” Pakistan’s state news agency reported on Thursday. 

The resolution received a majority of 90 votes, none against, with 52 abstentions, APP said.

Protests broke out in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan last month, over France’s response to a deadly attack in October on a teacher who showed cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to pupils during a civics lesson.

For Muslims, depictions of the Prophet are blasphemous.

Pakistan has condemned the recent re-printing of the cartoons. The French president has paid tribute to the murdered teacher, fueling further anger in the Muslim world. 

“Facing strong opposition from the powerful western bloc mainly based on freedom of expression, the Pakistan Mission worked hard to rally the OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] and other developing countries to garner support for inclusion of new elements in the resolution,” APP reported. 

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, referred to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s repeated calls to the international community and the United Nations to counter Islamophobia and promote respect for religious sensitivities.

“Ambassador Akram also emphasized that the deliberate “vilification and negative stereotyping of adherents of one of the largest religions in the world –Islam — only perpetuates dangerous self-fulfilling prophecies such as the ‘clash of civilizations’ and must be addressed on urgent basis,” APP quoted the ambassador as saying. 

“After some intensive lobbying, the resolution acknowledges — for the first time — the significance and respect for religious symbols,” the state news agency added. “It also stressed that the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities, and must therefore be subjected to legitimate restrictions.”

“The resolution condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to violence or discrimination,” APP said, “and underlines the importance of interrelgious and intercultural dialogue as a valuable tool for promoting social cohesion, and peace and development in the world.”