Mobile phone services have been restored in a number of Pakistani cities following a decision by the national government to suspend such communications on the eve of the Eid-up Fitr celebration in order to thwart terrorists from conducting terror attacks.
Cell phones went blank in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Multan and some other cities for several hours from 8 p.m Sunday into Monday mid-morning.
Pakistani authorities feared that militants would use mobile service to coordinate attacks or detonate a remote-controlled bomb.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said over the weekend that the government was particularly concerned that militants, including those affiliated with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, might use the high-profile festival that marks the end of the Ramadan holiday to plan deadly strikes in Punjab (which includes Lahore) and Sindh (which includes the capital, Karachi).
“The Punjab government has requested us to suspend cell-phone service in some parts of the province, but we think it should also be made temporarily inoperative in sensitive areas of Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh because terrorists usually use mobile phones in their acts of terrorism,” he said on Sunday.
"We regret that it had to be suspended in some cities due to the risk of terrorist attacks. We regret inconvenience caused to youths and children."
The precaution followed a brazen attack by militants last Thursday on an air force base which is believed to hold some of Pakistan’s nuclear warheads. On that same day, gunmen executed 20 Shia Muslim pilgrims whom they removed from a bus in the remote northwestern district of Mansehra.
On Friday, Pakistan’s neighbor India instituted a somewhat similar measure when officials in Bangalore in the south banned mass text messages for a period of two weeks in order to prevent the kind of threatening notes sent to Northeastern migrants who were led to believe they would be under attack in the region. The mass panic sparked a massive exodus out of Bangalore and certain other India cities.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.