ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Saturday confirmed that it had started restoring mobile Internet across Pakistan, days after it blocked the service amid protests in the South Asian country.
Mobile data services in Pakistan were suspended on May 9 following the arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan that sparked violent protests in the country. At least six protesters were killed in clashes between Khan supporters and the law enforcement.
A high court in Islamabad on Friday granted broad protection to the ex-premier from arrest in multiple legal cases against him, striking a blow to the government in a stand-off that had raised the specter of widespread unrest in the country.
The PTA said it had shut down mobile Internet services on the directives of the interior ministry to control the spread of chaos, however, mobile Internet subscribers started getting the services back on late Friday.
“On the instructions of the MoI (Ministry of Interior), mobile broadband is being restored across the country,” a PTA spokesperson told Arab News on Saturday.
Despite restoration of mobile Internet, major social networking websites, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, still remain blocked in the South Asian country.
The four-day mobile data suspension affected hundreds of thousands of people associated with online businesses, particularly daily wagers working with food delivery and ride-hailing platforms, who were left out of work.
“I earn and my family of ten — parents, two sisters, wife, and four children – eat,” Muhammad Kashif, a 35-year-old rider working for the Foodpanda delivery service, told Arab News on Friday.
“We had managed to get by with little savings, but if I don’t go to work tomorrow, they may have nothing to eat.”
Umesh Kumar, who has a family of seven, said the food-delivery service was like a lifeline to them, which itself depended on mobile broadband.
“Riding a bike for Foodpanda keeps the wheel of my life running. If there is no Internet, my only source of income is taken away,” he said.
Rafiq Malik, CEO of ride-hailing service Bykea, said their service dropped to almost zero due to the Internet suspension.
The company that normally has 100,000 daily transactions could not even complete 500 transactions per day since May 9, he added.
Hassan Arshad, a Foodpanda director for policy and communications, requested the government to minimize the losses by fully restoring Internet services in the country.
“We would like to request the government to prioritize the resumption of critical mobile broadband services to ensure the loss of revenue and people’s livelihoods can be minimized,” he said.