ISLAMABAD - Mobile phone services at certain places in the country can be shutdown anytime on August 19 (Sunday) and August 20 (Eid day) because of the terrorist threats, said Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

Talking to the media on Sunday, the minister said that Lahore, Multan and Karachi were the areas with the highest risk of terrorist activity. He said some other parts of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan province were also under threat and the law enforcement agencies have been notified.

Malik said mobile services may be suspended in these areas during Eid prayers and for up to 2.5 hours in the evening due to the threats, but he said they cannot specify the exact time and place of such services suspensions. He apologised to the people for any inconvenience but said the decision has been made to for their security. He also clarified that cellular services would not be shut throughout the country.

On Sunday evening, one cellular company suspended its services in Quetta and there were reports that other companies would soon follow the suit. Subscribers of various companies in Lahore and Karachi also faced suspension of service. The only exception, at least in the early hours of the night, was a particular company that had government shares, as its subscribers had the facility to make intra-service (home) calls.

Earlier, during a high-level meeting the interior ministry and officials from the PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) decided that mobile services may be suspended for a few hours in certain areas to tackle the terrorist threats during Eid.

Malik has also directed the Inspector Generals of Police (IGPs) and the provincial chief secretaries as well as Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) IGP to make foolproof security arrangements during Eid prayers and other important government installations and public places. No negligence would be tolerated by the law enforcement and security agencies, he said.

The minister said, “We should be ready to undermine any untoward incident.” He said the cellular service would be suspended in a surprise manner in the sensitive parts of the country. “My team is working round the clock for last 24 hours,” he added.

According to a letter issued by the ministry’s National Crisis Management Cell to the CEOs of the companies, the authority aims to cut off communication capabilities of miscreants and terrorists to foil their plans. The companies have been alerted beforehand so that action can be taken promptly, the letter stated.

Earlier, the Balochistan government had blocked cell phone services in Quetta and its surrounding areas on Independence Day in light of the security situation in the province. The US embassy in Islamabad had also issued a notice to its citizens in the country to be careful during Eidul Fitr as it senses potential attacks from militant and sectarian groups present in the country.