Pressured by lawmakers, Pakistan bans SMS and chat packages

KARACHI: As if the ban on YouTube wasn’t enough, Pakistan has gone ahead and banned chat packages for cell phones, including SMS packs citing “moral values”. The ban will be in place regardless of time or day.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority directed all companies to discontinue voice and text chat based packages in order to dissuade the youth of the country from indulging in activities “contrary to the moral value of the society”. The move was made after the federal government received complaints from lawmakers and hardliners regarding cell phone packages that made calling and chatting easier late in the night.

“Stop all kinds of chat packages (voice and SMS) irrespective of ‘time of the day’ and submit compliance by September 2 positively,” read a directive issued by the PTA Director General Muhammad Talib Dogar. According to a PTA official, the department has originally issued directives to put a stop to these chat packages by November 2012, but the companies did not pay heed to it and continued to offer these packages.

Hardliners have especially been opposed to these packages owing to the fact that it makes the youth talk the night away since they’re cheap. PML-N legislator Sheikh Allauddin said while speaking in the Punjab Assembly, “Boys and girls talk the whole night on mobile phones and these packages are destroying the moral character of our youth.”

The directive has had telecom companies in Pakistan scratching their heads. Companies like Mobiling, Ufone, Zong, Telenor and Warid have reacted strongly to this move. “One wonders how these are contrary to the moral values of our society. On the demand of extremists, night and day mobile packages are banned.Youtube is already banned” said an official of a cellular company to PTI, not wishing to be named. “These extremists may demand a ban on Facebook and social media as well, as these are also considered by many in our society as instrumental to spreading obscenity.”