Mobile package ban: PTA’s ‘moral policing’ draws anger, and applause

Banning late night mobile packages is a rash decision, infringement of freedom and rights say experts.


November 22, 2012

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in a statement on Tuesday issued a directive to all telecommunications companies to stop late night mobile phone packages, on the grounds of “violating social norms and values” of the country.

The late night packages offered by almost every telecom company in Pakistan are a tool to encourage consumption during off-peak hours, in line with similar packages being offered globally. The packages, which offer nominal rates for calls and texts, are hugely popular among the youth in the country.

“We have received a number of complaints from the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Standing Committee of the Parliament, senators, MNAs and subscribers regarding the promotion of vulgarity through such advertisements and have therefore asked CMOs to immediately discontinue such packages and to present compliance reports,” said PTA Chairman Farooq Awan.

‘Rash decision’ say experts

This ban is drawing criticism for being ill-thought out and against consumer rights.

Waseem Hashmi, Manager Coordination and Outreach at the Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan called the ban an infringement of personal freedom and rights.

“The issue has not been taken up internally yet, but it is a rash decision and we do not support such rash decisions,” he said.

Calling the ban absurd, Javed Jabbar, former Information Minister and academic called the ban an absurd decision that should be reconsidered. He further added that breaches of morality were not limited to the wee hours of the night in Pakistan.

“Why ban late night packages when we have unprecedented corruption, and content generating hatred and violence being aired openly in broad daylight?” Jabbar questioned.

He also emphasized that the state has the right to act as custodian - impose legislations and restrictions and even use violence only when a law is being violated or the public good is being threatened. If neither is at risk, as in the case of this ban, the decision loses its validity, he said.

Telcos in a conundrum

According to an official at one of the leading telecom companies in Pakistan who does not wish to be named, the late-night packages are a significant source of revenue for the company. Therefore, a potential consequence of the ban could be an introduction of cheap rate packages around the clock.

Another telco official who wished to remain unnamed also highlighted that the ban would adversely impact consumers as much as companies themselves because they would have to pay a higher rate for the same service.

"We will take it up with the government on a different platform - through dialogue and communication, [we will] try and explain the positive aspects of such packages" the official said.

Mixed response from the public

The decision has also triggered a mixed response over social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter in Pakistan. While some have commended the move for reducing “corrupt influences” on the youth and improving their productivity and academic performance, others have criticized the PTA for moral policing.
Facebook comments

Khalid Rind Appreciated. One of those very few good decision taken by government.

Mujahid Khan Too late but good act by PTA so far

Murtaza Hussayn Somrai Good decision taken for very first time in this country

Sufia Mariyah Zamir SERIOUSLY people are late night packages only for members of the opposite sex to interact with?? maybe a married woman is using it to contact her parents or her siblings in another city, or maybe a student in a hostel is taking advantage of these packages to call back home?? has that ever occured to anyone?? and frankly, monitoring their children is the parents responsibility not anyone elses!

Ahab Minhas The state intervening in personal lives of citizens is never good.
Twitter commentary

Shireen Mazari ‏ PTA declares late night talk packages "immoral"! So now PTA upholder of morality suddenly in Pak! What is immoral is the corrupt leadership!

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

Such are state of affairs or affairs of state: Interior Min bans mobiles as we are "insecure", PTA bans mobile packages as we are "immoral"

Mehreen Kasana PTA orders ban on late night mobile packages. They're "not in line with social moral values". Morality has timings? Uh.

omar r quraishi Last time I checked the PTA's job was to ensure affordable reliable telecom services to Pakistani users -- not to be their moral police

cyril almeida Who needs the Taliban; we already have the PPP govt (Yes, I know PTA is allegedly an 'independent' regulator.)

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COMMENTS (67)

Yawer Amin | 9 years ago | Reply

@Sufia: Oh well ! You can say that and I appreciate your view, But by administrative point of view, the decisions are taken for maximum advantage to maximum people and minimum disadvantage to minimum people !! if you are being suffered, it is sad ! but on the contrary you can see the good in it ! With your little support we can save a good decision and may be a generation !! The control you are taking about on children will then open another debate on freedom !! and as far as proxies are being used, this is true but I must tell you that they proxy procedure is also hard if its not complicated and it does limit the users again as it slows down your internet connection speed and hence can not said to be 100 % working !! that's it !! The basic motive is to limit the misuse,only misuse . !!

Syed Arbab Ahmed | 9 years ago | Reply

What work people have which can only be done in late night? so it must be appreciated, only those who use it can like it.

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