Suspending cellular services
THE unique idea of suspending cellular service was introduced by Rehman Malik, Interior Minister, on Eidul Fitr to curb the menace of terrorism. Since then it has been used arbitrarily by the government on every important event.
Suspending cellular service every now and then does not seem to be a rational approach to combat terrorism. This easiest move without taking into account its legal, economic, social and practical implications shows sluggishness and tardiness on the part of the government. Blanket blockade of mobile phone services in overall cities causes financial loss of billions of rupees not only to telecom companies but also to the government.
Moreover, the public feels paralysed in urgent and emergent situations.
Legally speaking, this move is a blithe disregard of Section 54(3) of Pakistan Telecommunications Act, 1996. Section 54(3) clearly stipulates that the federal government may cause suspension of operation, functions or services of any licensee upon proclamation of emergency by the President of Pakistan.
Section 54(3) further provides that federal government may compensate any licensee whose facilities or services are affected by such action. Thus arbitrary suspension of cellular services is illegal and in violation of licensing agreement between telecom companies and PTA.