On Tuesday, the Tribune reported that economists had begun to predict an improvement in Pakistan’s economy. While these predictions were based perhaps on some optimism, it must be asked what impact the crackdown on Internet access will have on Pakistan’s media.
According to The Tribune:
Pakistan will soon come out of its economic problems and become a prosperous nation, a US official claimed. The head of a two-member US delegation, Professor David Westbrook, was speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Monday.
He said that societies are built with the regulation of laws and rules and he being a public diplomacy representative of the US society likes to study the problems of Pakistan so that these may be highlighted. LCCI Vice President Faisal Iqbal Sheikh emphasised on the need for easy and direct access for Pakistani products to the US market. He said that among major issues that need to be resolved in order to sustain the Pakistani economy, development of infrastructure is the hottest one.
LCCI President Zafar Iqbal Chaudhry said that there was a great potential in the transportation sector because despite recession and economic slowdown, the sector has shown good results. “This provides an ample proof that the sector has the ability to expand further.” He said Pakistan has a tremendous potential for energy generation, especially hydropower, as there were a number of potential locations for cheap production of electricity.
The LCCI president said there were some main areas where foreign assistance could be helpful in energy generation, adding small hydroelectric units could be installed on canals and rivers. “Proven coal reserves of Pakistan are 185 billion tons and this potential can be tapped to generate electricity,” he added. He stressed the need for early approval for setting up Reconstruction Opportunities Zones in tribal areas. He said there was a huge potential in the agriculture sector as well.
According to a report today in the same newspaper, PTA director Musassir Hussain testified that shutting down access to websites will harm Pakistan’s economy.
As court proceedings began in Lahore, more than 50 emotionally-charged lawyers criticised PTA director Mudassir Hussain’s testimony regarding the impact of the site’s closure. Hussain said that it was impossible to block the website as it would hurt Pakistan’s economy, adding that the country could lose its internet facilities.
Actually, Mudassir Hussain very well could be correct. A report from Monday says that Pakistan’s telecom sector has seen great success and is globally recognized as such.
Advisor to Prime Minister for Information Technology, Muhammad Latif Khan Khosa has said the success of telecom sector in Pakistan is globally recognized and Pakistan has emerged as a role model for other emerging telecom markets. He reiterated the government’s resolve to promote and support the initiatives to enhance Pakistan’s technological capacity to develop and produce a globally competitive Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector and industry.
That success and recognition is now threatened by the acts of the courts and PTA. The Times (UK) is calling it “the Great Firewall of Pakistan” and says “the ban could cut up to 25 per cent of total internet traffic in Pakistan.”
How is Pakistan going to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) if investors can not be certain that they will be able to use the Internet or their Black Berry? The answer is, we won’t. Foreign investors who see that courts may pull the plug on technology at a whim are not going to be interested in bringing their business here. And before you say that we should be cutting off ties to the West, do not expect China to bring any investment here either under these circumstances. They may censor their own citizens internet, but they don’t simply block access so bluntly.