islamabad - Residents of twin cities continued to face difficulties yesterday as mobile phone service has been suspended since Sunday night when Mumtaz Qadri’s supporters entered the federal capital. On Tuesday, there was a total blackout of cellular services in more than 10 kilometre radius around the Parliament House. Most of the important state buildings are situated in Red Zone. Two major hospitals of the capital are also situated closely to Red Zone.

Mobile phone service suspension around Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) and Polyclinic caused problems for thousands of daily visiting patients.

“I had to arrange blood for my relative but due to absence of cellular services, I was unable to contact my friends to come and donate blood timely,” said Irshad Ahmed, an attendant at PIMS.

Many attendants complained that due to shutdown of cellular services, they faced problems in coordinating with their family members at home.

The PIMS is the biggest government hospital in the capital where 1,200 patients visit OPD daily. On average 200 critical patients visit emergency department every day.

Many private hospitals are also situated in the 10 kilometres radius of the Parliament House. These hospitals have hired mostly on-call doctors (visiting staff) and due to absence of mobile phone service, many doctors could not reach hospitals.

“A female patient came to hospital with labour pains yesterday. We were not able to contact the doctor on time and her normal delivery was converted into Caesarean one,” said Yasir Amin, an administrator at a private hospital. He said due to rush on roads and traffic jams, patients could not be shifted to some other hospital.

Gulshan-e-Jinnah, a residential complex for government officers is also located close to Red Zone. Hundreds of residents are cut off from the outside world since Sunday night.

According to locals, they were having problems using their cellular phones in most parts of the capital and some parts of Rawalpindi due to bad signals.

They pointed out that most of them use weekly or monthly packages where the amount is deducted in advance. With this suspension, a lot of their hard-earned money is going waste.

The telecom industry said the services were shut on the orders of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). “We shut the services on Monday after PTA directed us to shut down the mobile services in the radius of ten kilometres around the Parliament House,” an official said.

He admitted that due to location of towers, the consumers living outside the 10 kilometres radius of the Parliament House may also have no signals. He said the services might remain shut until the protesters call off their sit-in.

This is not the first time that mobile phone services have been suspended in the capital. The services are suspended often whenever there is a strike, protest or any important event.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority sources said that they had ordered the suspension on directives of the ministry of interior. They said the suspension is likely to continue till the end of the sit-in.

The sources pointed out that some of the users may receive signals in the Red Zone due to spill-over factor, while services of some companies may not be accessible outside Red Zone due to location and less number of towers.

Some non-governmental organisations termed the suspension a violation of basic rights of the citizens. “We would like to remind the government that blanket restrictions on communication under the guise of security are not only in violation of human rights but there is also no evidence to show that it is an effective counterterrorism tool,” Said Bytes for All, in its report, last year. According to the organisation, shutting down mobile services negatively impacts a range of social, economic, cultural and fundamental rights.