Mobile phone-blocking after protests cost Pak firms Rs 450 mn

Pak`s telecom operators lost Rs 450 million due to the blocking of mobile phones in 15 cities across the country that cut-off over 50 mn people.

Islamabad: Pak`s telecom operators lost a staggering Rs 450 million Friday due to the blocking of mobile phones in 15 cities across the country that cut-off over 50 million people, a media report said Saturday.

Protests took place across the country Friday against the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims". Clashes took place as the country observed Youm-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (love of Prophet Mohammad day).

The government decided to cut-off mobile phone services in 15 cities to prevent unrest, but the move failed as violence left 23 people dead and 200 injured.

"The government left over 50 million subscribers in trouble while the estimated financial loss is over Rs 450 million," Dawn quoted a senior official of a mobile phone company as saying.

He said around 100 million users of mobile phone companies are using the Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) network across Pakistan.

"Half of these mobile users are urban; and on Friday even some rural areas were denied the service till the evening," he added.

The move to snap mobile phone connectivity inconvenienced many.

Doctors could not get in touch with hospitals on a day that was expected to see medical emergencies.

"A number of senior physicians could not be consulted on the phone and a few surgical procedures had to be delayed," a medical officer told Dawn.

Farhana Niazi, a 29-year-old physician, was on her way back home when she got caught in the middle of a mob. She took out her phone to call home for help but to no avail.

She spent a frightening 10 minutes till she managed to escape unhurt.

"Closing down the mobile phone services is becoming an `extortion` tactic of the federal government. It also shows their lack of regard for international investors and multinational companies," said a senior executive vice president of a mobile phone company.