Will ending night packages save our culture?

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  • Civil society slams government for banning cellular night packages
  • Official says PTA has directed mobile companies to stop night packages
  • Lawyer asks whether government has conducted study in this regard

Civil society and youth have termed the federal government’s decision to ban night packages of mobile networks an infringement of their basic rights, Pakistan Today has learnt.

Reportedly, Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman directed mobile phone operators to bring an end to night packages, saying such packages had tried to “destroy our culture”.

State Minister for Frontier Regions and Kashmir Affairs Barjees Tahir said during the Senate session on Monday that the government had directed the mobile operators to bring an end to night packages. But the companies had moved the Supreme Court against the PTA decision. However, the court did not grant stay.

A senior official said the PTA had directed mobile companies to stop night packages, adding that the decision was challenged in the high court, but the court gave verdict in favour of the PTA. Now the decision has been challenged in the Supreme Court, but the stay has not been granted so far.

People maintained “culture” is too subtle a term to be defined initially and only then it could be ascertained if it has been destroyed. Others questioned the government’s authority and termed it an infringement of their freedom. Yet many others accepted the government’s right to ban it, but thought there are tougher challenges at hand.

Lahore Conservation Society’s Dr Ajaz Anwar said it is not a “wise” decision because if the government bans night packages the youth will resort to day packages. “We should train our children in such a way that they know and are able to decide what’s good or bad for them. Banning mobile communication will always push them to use chatting. These are not children of yesteryears but internet generation,” he added.

Sajid Minhas, an activist, said like every issue it is no doubt debatable, but “I am against the move”, because this is a free country and it is for the people to decide.

“The telecommunication companies have offered very cheap rates in Pakistan unmatched across the world, hence it is a part of their overall strategy, which will disturb their entire business model,” he added.

Qudsia Sajjad, an educationist, said the government should realize that what they think “detrimental” to the culture is part of a bigger phenomenon in which the society has transformed at large. “Just as after the cable TV, people started used to watching a lot of channels and hence developing new habits. The government cannot stop such changes through such moves,” she added.

Rafay Alam, a lawyer, asked if anyone in the government has conducted a study or what’s the proof to substantiate her [Anusha’s] claim since she is making a policy decision. “I don’t think she is actually going to do that because the PTA is a completely regulated body,” he said, adding, “Bombs, illiteracy and hunger are destroying the social fabric of our society and the government need to focus on that as well.”

IT Ministry spokesman Kamran Khattak said Anusha Rehman only briefed the Senate about what has been happening and has not herself banned the night packages. He said the matter comes under the regulator, the PTA and the ministry has nothing to do with it.

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