State of the Pakistani IT Sector

The Pakistan government has been making a lot of noises over the years about attracting IT companies to set up shop in Pakistan. It is somewhat akin to to the old story of the seven blind men feeling up an elephant and trying to guess what it is – then killing the beast by chopping it up and selling of whatever little bits of it they could grasp. Those in the know – i.e people in the real world who actually are active in the field look on the actions of the assorted Pakistani Ministries of IT in horror.

The latest Dilbertesque incident to take place by the assorted clowns in the Pakistan govt. dealing with the IT sector is the raid of a local Pakistani software company in Islamabad, and the arrest of it’s CEO on Dec 4, 2006. As I write this, the poor chap is still in jail, and the raided equipment has not yet been returned. The “whole story is posted here”:, and of course is banned by the idiots that be, so it is only accessible through a proxy from Pakistan. The company was wrongfully accused of terminating VOIP calls in Pakistan – not only was the company not doing anything of the sort, but the PTA itself had determined that it’s legal to do so anyways – way back in Jan 03!

Cogilient had _a detailed meeting with Gen. Shahzada (chairman) and his team at PTA. After confessing by the Director who conducted the raid himself, Mr. Sajjad Awan, that the raid and arrest of Faisal was a mistake, General agreed for withdrawal of the case immediately._ They were promised a letter withdrawing the case – but the next day refused to issue it. Soon after this, the General jetted of to India, while the CEO remains in Jail.

!! In order to get the innocent incarceration of the CEO ended from FIA custoday, the friends of Faisal and Cogilent organized a protest rally in Islamabad in front of the Ministry of Information Technology. The state of affairs in the local industry can be summed up in the following statement:

bq. In response to the protest, PTA decided to go on a smear campaign and published various press releases attacking the company and its activities.

A former employee of the company wrote on the “Perils of technological advancement in Pakistan”:, after which he got a call from the “authorities”:

bq.. Just to go on record, I got a call about an hour ago from a very short number, usually reserved for intelligence or military organizations.

The person was asking some weird questions about my blog, but didn’t say who he was. I better shift this website to some place out of reach of the authorities.

p. A day later, he had shifted his site outside of Pakistan. Sadly, the standard advice I always give people on hosting websites is to make sure they’re out of reach of the Pakistani authorities, and this incident only reinforces the need to do so. One would think the “Pakistani govt. blocking 50 odd million websites”: would serve to make people take notice that Pakistan is not a very IT friendly country, but not too many people outside the country know this. If they can block 50 million sites, whats one more to them? What do the foreign investors the PTA is inviting to open up shop in Pakistan think of all this? Does the PTA ever bother to think? Perhaps the real question is if they are they even capable of thinking?

As is evident from the PTA’s statement below, they are clearly incapable of rational thought:

bq.. “Besides, it is evident from the facts and figures of telecom sector that PTA has always encouraged both local and foreign investors to invest in the telecom related business and facilitated them in every possible manner,” said a PTA statement on Tuesday. _by raiding their offices and arresting them? or by bocking their websites?_

It said the PTA always conducted raids against illegal operations on solid evidence and through monitoring of the suspected facility as per law. _this would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic, especially for those languishing in jail after being wrongfully accused by the government_

p. Italics mine. At a minimum, the Minister of IT along with the heads of the PTA should resign, and issue a public apology. Nothing short of that makes up for what they’ve done. More updates to follow as the case drags on.

Dec 17, 2006: Minister orders release of Faisal “#” As of Dec 20, it looks like despite the Minister’s intervention, it’s still going to take a week before Faisal is out of jail.

h4. related

* “PTA notification allowing IP telephony in 2003”:

5 thoughts on “State of the Pakistani IT Sector”

  1. There was a fair amount of press in the US about this. Terrible news for Pakistan when it comes to developing its IT sector. If a US company is doing some outsourcing and considering both Pakistan and India, it would be hard to justify going to Pakistan. No one wants to risk having operations shut down or going to jail. This is going to put Pakistan years behind, and likely will lead to Pakistan losing many of its brightest and best to other countries.

  2. The CEO Faisal has finally been released, but the damage has been done. As I wrote above, too little too late was done, and all the concerned go home scot free. The various authorities patted themselves on the back for such a speedy resolution to the case and have promptly forgotten about it. The system which enables such travesties remains in place, and so do the people running it.

  3. A major issue we have in Pakistan is that NOTHING and I mean NOTHING is clear.

    Exactly and I mean exactly how do you get permit for a Call Center?

    It is not 100% clear.

    How do you actually start a company in Pakistan (obeying all the laws, etc)

    It is not clear (unless you hire a very expensive attorney and still not clear).

    Unfortunately no matter what you do in Pakistan you never are 100% certain you have done 100% of what needs to be done.

    I own a software business and I must say that getting Phone, Electricity, Legal Paperwork, Call Center Paperwork, Rental Paperwork done…etc etc etc; I am not certain that I am “legal” with anything/everything.

    Obviously we need a overhaul of the laws but that is not gonna happen cuse its not in the interest of those in power.

  4. Regarding tech sector…anyone have info on how DSL is for business users in Karachi and in general for Pakistan?

    Im starting a software company and need to know.



  5. Great question Rasheed.

    Right now we are using CyberNet and they are charging us 12,000 for 256K shared DSL connection.

    We know they are charging us too much but unfortunately they are the only DSL provider in the area.

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