The cost for overseas Pakistanis to call Pakistani landlines and cell phones has increased by 300 to 800 per cent from October 1, depending on the country and network. This tremendous increase is a result of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) decision to implement the controversial international clearing house (ICH). This move, which is claimed to reduce illegal calls to Pakistan, has resulted in a tremendous penalty for overseas Pakistanis who call their family and friends in Pakistan.
Call charges from the UK to Pakistan have already been increased from three to six cents a minute to as high as up to 24 cents a minute. In comparison, charges for neighbouring countries such as India, China and Bangladesh are one to six cents a minute depending on the network.
According to media reports, monthly incoming international traffic to Pakistan is around one and a half billion minutes a month, which means overseas Pakistanis will have to pay an extra $120 to $150 million to the PTA for calling their families back home.
During the current economic downturn in Pakistan, when foreign investors are reluctant to invest due to the poor law and order situation, economic activity will further suffer as overseas companies will be discouraged to do business with Pakistan. Overseas Pakistanis will also be discouraged from sending remittances and investing in Pakistan. It should be noted that overseas Pakistanis play a very important role in the country’s economy by remitting billions of dollars every year. The PTA’s decision to penalise them must be taken back with immediate effect.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2012.