Just before midnight, the young crowd in the city gets jittery. One of them is Mohsin, a 17 years old student, looks impatiently at his watch. A university student Aleena finishes her college assignment and goes to her bedroom. Young Saleem slips away to the moonlit roof because he lives in a small overcrowded flat. Naughty Najia goes to find a peaceful corner in the living room and settles down. As it tolls midnight, they all get on their cellular phones. It’s time to make phone calls until the break of dawn. No need to worry about the rising cost of living for the young ones as long as they can make long phone calls that don’t burn a hole in their pockets and they can talk for as long as they want with their friends, classmates or cousins.
Lets talk-shawk and make calls to any dear one say him or her aur sunao thanks to all mobile phone companies in Pakistan providing cheap call rates from the midnight to the dawn, some of them offering SMS bundles to attract more and more consumers who wish to talk to their friends without keeping an eye on the clock.
For obvious reasons, all mobile phone companies are aiming at the youth because they are the most frequent callers.
Spontaneous smiles, glint in the eyes and happy faces are the tell-tale signs of who’s the one you are talking to. The dark of the night, especially when there is a power outage, which is so common now, provides the young hearts a cover to talk to the apple of their eye. Now they can keep talking the whole night long to say it all, as they believed in the slogan says, Tu Batein Kartay Jao Aur Sub Keh Do.
“My son talks on phone till late in the night without a care about going to university the next morning,” complains Mrs Farooq, a resident of Gulshan-e-Iqbal, “He does not go to bed until I scold at him.”
One night she took his cell phone in her custody to make him go to sleep. The next day he had another cell phone. “I cannot stop him and I know that he cannot stop talking to his saheyli (girlfriend).”
University student Sarah Saeed is unable to afford too much money on the mobile phone, but she can spend money on the lowest-cost SMS bundles offered by various companies in the late night hours. Therefore, she relies on her fingers to chat with friends Dil Ki Batain Likh Kar bolo because “it’s fun to be young.” Sarah’s mother is also concerned about her sleeplessness.
Resolutions in Provincial Assemblies
Initially, some of the parents felt uneasy about this situation but the changing trend in the routine of youth that made them almost “Night Owls” has caused irritation among many parents in Pakistan. Subsequently, the concern was raised in the Provincial Assembly of most populated province of the country, Punjab, in February 2010. And the same resolution was adopted in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhawa Assembly in very next month, seeking ban on these night calls packages that have been causing moral degradation among youth in the opinion of lawmakers.
According to Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA), there are more than 97 million cellular phone subscribers in a population of 170 million, a whopping 57 out of every 100 persons has a cell phone service. In a rough estimate, almost 60 per cent of the population comprising youth, the number of subscribers aged between 18 to 25 years old must be in more than 55 million.
Telecom experts were of the view that late night packages are lucrative for the companies as they have become enabled to engage their idle network from midnight to 7am. Though the calls packages don’t generate quantum revenue but it is the best avenue for earning revenues in the cutting-throat competitive cellular phone market. Hence, any ban on the night calling packages will hurt the earnings of cellular phone companies.
The package was introduced first in May 2008, since then it has been very popular among the youngsters.
Rana Iqbal, is a watchman belongs to lower class. He has an opportunity every day to talk with the members of his family living far away in the small city of Sindh. For him, the night calls package is blessing because it connects him with his wife, kids and parents, a best way for Apnu ko apnu se Joray and sharing all feeling without care of balance, that is, Bat Suntay Raho, Bat Kartay Raho. Dil ko awaz Ku Ab Dabana Nahi.
Tauseef is learning English language to get good scores in IELTS exams. He talks to his friends hours and hours every night on his mobile phone for being a fluent speaker of the language thanks to the most affordable package after all Tum hi tu ho. His dreams can be true by telephone companies as Life ka Network.
Thus, like every other thing, the night calls packages have some advantages and disadvantages and it obviously depends on the users’ of the service whether to use it for positive purpose or to make it tool of entertainment. But the debate is not over here.
Social commentators rightly pointed out the way the calling packages are advertized as creating incitement in youth to use the service negatively. Particularly, the teenagers misuse it service and waste their precious time on their gadgets rather than studies. Talking late night on phones for hours has also negative connotation and is also considered immoral in our society.
Massive advertising blitzes continue unabated in all the press and electronic media that seduce the young psyche and make the buck roll. Songs, dialogues, and situations are designed to influence youngsters. The element of romance is portrayed effectively to promote the night call packages in advertisements.
It is suggested that mobile operators’ advertisements could have effective contents and messages for their customers instead of smiling faces of girls and boys.
The telecom regulator, PTA, is silent on the issue when it is raised with the excuse of limited powers, saying the domain to check the content of advertisements is related to Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). The authority concerned should open its eyes and ban all sorts of advertisement that set negative trends in the society after all it is matter of our young generation, which is the future of the nation.
Besides, youngsters should ponder over how much they misuse calling facility and money carelessly which they can used for the fruitful purpose.