Punjab govt exempts IT sector from smog restrictions

Move comes after P@SHA made urgent appeal warning of consequences to sector

Zafar Bhutta November 10, 2023
People and vehicles are seen on a road amidst the morning smog in New Delhi, India, November 8, 2023. PHOTO: REUTERS


The Punjab government has responded to the urgent plea of the Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITeS (P@SHA) by exempting the IT sector, including call centres and international IT centres, from the recent smog-related restrictions.

In a move to mitigate unintended consequences on various businesses, the Punjab government, through order NO.SO(G)/P&SHD/4-1/2023, has incorporated paragraph 4(e)(1) to exempt call centres and international IT centres. The order specifies exemptions for businesses in closed areas, encompassing a range of essential services.

The exempted businesses include pharmacies, medical stores, medical facilities, vaccination centres, petrol pumps, oil depots, tandoors, bakeries, grocery and karyana stores, milk/dairy shops, sweet shops, vegetable/fruit shops, chicken/meat shops, e-commerce/postal/courier services, and utility services (electricity, natural gas, internet, cellular networks/telecom, international IT centres, and call centres).

Chairman of P@SHA, Muhammad Zohaib Khan, had urgently appealed to Chief Minister Punjab, Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi, expressing concerns over the unintended consequences of the government order on the IT sector. Khan emphasised the potential disruption to IT exports, operational halts, and financial losses.

Read People choked by smog in Multan

He warned that the “restricted movement” in the primary hub of IT exports posed a risk of halting operations, leading to failure in meeting international clients’ deadlines, resulting in substantial financial losses and contractual penalties.

Khan further highlighted the potential damage to Brand Pakistan, expressing concern that the interruption in IT services may tarnish Pakistan’s international image as a reliable IT service provider. The P@SHA chairman raised concerns about lasting damage to reputation and the potential breeding of customer distrust. A sudden shutdown could lead clients to seek services from other countries, causing short-term business losses and potentially reducing foreign IT investments in the long run.

Appealing to the Punjab government, Khan urged an immediate addendum to the notification exempting IT exporters, call centres, and related businesses. P@SHA recommended allowing IT companies to continue operations under strict health safety protocols, aligning with practices during the pandemic.

While supporting the government’s intent to safeguard public health, P@SHA underscored that a blanket restriction affecting essential services could be counterproductive. The association expressed its commitment to taking necessary measures to ensure the safety of employees and the community.

Khan requested the government’s urgent intervention to prevent a crisis with potential long-lasting negative consequences for one of Pakistan’s most vibrant and promising economic sectors.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2023.

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