ISLAMABAD: The residents of Islamabad and Rawalpindi were inconvenienced by the unannounced blackout of mobile phone services in the name of security and Parade Day rehearsals on Sunday.

While internet services were not shut, phone calls could not be made as mobile signals remained down from 6am till noon.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) did not share details about the suspension of services.

A PTA official requesting anonymity explained that it was the same exercise as last year and the year before that.

 

“Security agencies do not announce suspension of services to maintain security. Announcing it defeats the purpose of securing the parade ground where personnel of joint armed forces rehearse for the military parade on March 23,” he said.

According to the official, security concerns were higher this year given the series of attacks across the country last month.

“Phone services are expected to be suspended again during the final rehearsals and certainly on March 23,” he said.

While residents said they were expecting it, they were nonetheless thankful that phone services were not suspended every day two weeks prior to the Parade Day celebrations like it used to be a few years ago.

Hafeezuddin, however, was annoyed. “Road blockades and jammed phones are nuisances and we do not want it even if it’s once a year. People cannot make calls if there are health emergencies or children have exams. Such events should be held outside cities where people are not inconvenienced,” said the retired government servant. Imran Khalid, a businessman, said: “Traffic diversions were already a problem and no phone signals made the matters worse.”

It was not just PTA that declined to share information even cellular mobile operators were not as forthcoming.

According to an official of Mobilink, as always the notice to suspend services originated from the PTA on the last minute and its details were confidential.

An official of Ufone said he was not aware of what he called a ‘blanket’ outage across Islamabad with the spillover effects in Rawalpindi.

“The government can direct operators to suspend both mobile signals as well as 3G and 4G services for security reasons up to March 23,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2017

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