Point-of-sale (POS) transactions routed through the main digital payment systems in Pakistan fell by around 50% the day after former prime minister Imran Khan’s arrest ignited countrywide protests and prompted authorities to shut down mobile internet services, data showed on Thursday.
The reason for the slump was primarily the mobile broadband suspension, in addition to lower footfall at the limited number of stores opened due to the political turmoil, the two largest payments system operators, 1LINK and Habib Bank Limited (HBL), told Reuters.
The violent protests that followed Khan’s arrest on Tuesday by the anti-graft agency have hit commercial activity hard.
Mobile data services have remained shut since Tuesday night on the orders of the interior ministry – the longest such continuous shutdown in the country.
Data shared with Reuters by 1LINK on POS through its platform showed international payment card transactions were down on Wednesday by 45% in volume, from a daily average of 127,000 during the week from May 1 to 7 to approximately 68,000 on May 10.
The daily value of transactions using international payment cards was down 46%, from Rs606 million ($2.14 million) to Rs330 million ($1.16 million) on May 10.
1LINK is the major facilitator of POS digital payment transactions for international platforms such as Visa and Mastercard.
Transactions on the domestic payment scheme, PayPak, were down 52% in volume to 18,000 transactions on Wednesday, and 56% down in value to roughly Rs62 million ($218,775).
Ali Habib, spokesperson at HBL, said that it had seen a decline of 60% in the throughput of POS machines. “HBL processes over 30% of the entire throughput of the POS machines in Pakistan. This is the largest share in the market,” he added.
Many retailers and industrialists have also said their activities had ground to a halt since the protests started on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) suspended mobile broadband services across the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2023.
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Originally published at tribune.com.pk