Pakistan experienced a significant disruption in its digital services after mobile internet services and access to major social media platforms were shut down for more than 72 hours. This resulted in an estimated revenue loss of at least Rs820 million for telecom operators, while the government lost around Rs287 million in tax revenue. Individuals who depend on digital apps and payments, such as Careem, InDrive, FoodPanda, and others, also suffered a significant loss in earnings. The IT industry, which was already under pressure due to allegedly poor governmental policies and a lack of continuity, also came to a standstill since the internet suspension.
The Cause of the Shutdown
The shutdown of internet and social media services in Pakistan was the result of the arrest of former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, which triggered violent protests across the country. The general public’s access to mobile internet and social media was restricted nationwide, following directives from the Ministry of Interior. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority then restricted access to mobile internet services and various social media websites including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook for Pakistani citizens
Impact on Digital Services
The inability to access major social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others had a significant impact on mobile companies and the freelancing industry within the country. The social media ban had prompted concern from several countries including the United States, who expressed their anxiety over the situation.
The suspension of mobile broadband services caused significant financial losses for digital service providers, the government, and the general population. Mobile broadband services and access to social media platforms had remained suspended for a consecutive fourth day in several parts of the country on Friday in the aftermath of the riots triggered by the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan on May 9.
According to reports, individuals who depend on digital apps and payments, such as Careem, InDrive, FoodPanda, and others also suffered a significant loss in earnings. The IT industry, which was already under pressure due to allegedly poor governmental policies and a lack of continuity, also came to a standstill since the internet suspension.
Legal Action and International Concern
A writ petition was filed in the Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking directions to the relevant authorities for the restoration of cellular internet service and access to all social media platforms. The court was asked to declare the imposed blockage as arbitrary, illegal, unlawful, and unconstitutional, as it amounts to depriving the public of their basic rights.
On Friday, a global organisation of mobile ecosystem, Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA), also expressed concern over the shutdown of broadband internet in Pakistan. In an emergency letter to Federal Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haq, the GSMA had pressed the government to put an end to internet disruptions.
Restoration of Internet Services
Finally, after more than 72 hours of shutdown, mobile internet services in Pakistan have been reinstated, restoring citizens’ access to numerous social media platforms including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. The restoration of internet services will not only bring relief to the general public but also give a boost to the IT industry and digital service providers who have suffered significant losses.
In conclusion, the internet shutdown in Pakistan caused a major disruption to digital services, resulting in significant financial losses for digital service providers, the government, and the general population. It also prompted concern from several countries, including the United States, and legal action was taken to restore access to internet and social media platforms. The restoration of internet services is a welcome relief and is expected to provide a boost to the IT industry and digital service providers.