The ongoing political turmoil that gripped Pakistan after the arrest of Imran Khan, the Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has led to internet services being down. This has severely affected people’s lives and businesses. Point-of-sale transactions routed through Pakistan’s main digital payment systems have fallen by around 50%, and the information technology (IT) sector is expected to suffer daily losses worth $3-$4 million.
Hopes were raised that internet services might resume after almost 72 hours, when the Supreme Court declared Khan’s May 9 arrest illegal and asked him to approach the Islamabad High Court for further directions. However, when asked if services would resume, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Director Public Relations replied, “No new instructions received from the Ministry of Interior as yet,” indicating that connections might not be restored anytime soon.
Reports suggest that the lack of internet services has resulted in an approximate revenue loss of Rs820 million for telecom operators, a huge dent to the sector, and dampening slowing economic growth. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority suspended mobile broadband services across the country on Tuesday night on the orders of the interior ministry – the longest such continuous shutdown in a country that often suspends communications as a tool to quell unrest.
In addition, the government has blocked major social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. YouTube services are also slower to control the spread of disinformation and panic among the masses due to the spread of “unwanted information.”
Reuters reported that data shared by 1LINK on Point-of-Sale (POS) through its platform showed international payment card transactions had fallen 45% in volume on Wednesday, from a daily average of 127,000 during the week of May 1 to 7, to approximately 68,000 on May 10. The daily value of transactions using international payment cards was down 46%, from 606 million rupees ($2.14 million) to 330 million rupees ($1.16 million) on May 10. Digital payments have been growing at a fast pace in Pakistan, although cash transactions are still dominant in the commercial sector.