Fighting terrorism with cell phone bans

Can we make the economy a hostage to terrorists? Closure of mobile services cannot undo a threat.

Wasif Mahmood November 29, 2012
Is the nation prepared to cope with a scenario where there will be no cell phone services at all?

If not, it better start.

Since there is no hope that terrorists and militants will turn into gentlemen and peace-loving human beings, there will be no let-up in such tactics by our headless government.

There are many occasions, both religious and national, that we observe each year. Any occasion of happiness is intolerable for our enemies. This results in a ‘genuine’ security clampdown in the shape of mobile phone services shutdown.

On this Ashura, the terror threat was so immense that cellular services remained off for two days.

The list of occasions goes on; March 23, Allama Iqbal Day, Quaid Day, Benazir Bhutto Day, Anti-polio Day, Thalassemia Day, etc.

One fine day, these activities will become credible threats to the peace of our society. Thus, we are not too far from when the government, in the name of security, will be forced to shut down social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, which saw a tsunami of activity on Ashura.

But the question is; can we shut the country down and leave streets deserted just to avert terrorist threats?

Can we make the economy a hostage to terrorists?

In recent years, Pakistan’s telecommunication sector has emerged as one of Asia’s fastest growing sectors. It is a sector with one of the greatest potentials. It also remains an important contributor to the national economy by having deposited Rs363 billion in 2011 and showing an increase of 5.4 per cent compared to last year. There has been a cumulative investment of approximately $2.5 billion in Pakistan’s electronic media industry. New jobs have been provided for over 200,000 people of diverse skills and qualifications.

The Punjab government in full voice have left no stone unturned in berating the federal government for banning motorcycles and blocking mobile services. But the provincial governor appeared on television screens the very next day and announced a ban on pillion riding in Punjab.

Our elected representatives should give up political point-scoring and come up with a tangible solution to unite a divided and directionless nation. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and let the real problem fester. Closure of mobile services cannot undo a threat. We will have to get to the bottom of issues.

Read more by Wasif here.
Wasif Mahmood Senior Associate Producer who works on the Lahore desk at The Express Tribune
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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