Online reports claiming that Android users from Pakistan would be unable to download Google Play Store services are untrue and deceptive since users would be able to use the Play Store.
However, Android users in Pakistan won’t be able to buy paid apps or use in-app paid services through mobile carrier billing — a way for mobile users to pay for apps with their mobile credits — because the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) stopped a payment of $34 million to global tech companies. This was done to stop the flow of dollars out of the country.
According to the details, the SBP suspended Direct Carrier Billing (DCB) — online mobile payment method which allows users to purchase via their mobile credit. Therefore, the payment of $34 million to overseas service providers like Google, Amazon, and Meta, has been frozen.
However, it is imperative to highlight that Pakistani users can continue to buy apps or use paid services on Google Play Store through credit or debit cards only.
In this regard, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT), the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), and four cellular mobile operators (CMOs) unanimously wrote a letter to the SBP, requesting that it reverses the decision to revoke the DCB mechanism for payment of dollar fees in light of the country’s liquidity crisis.
IT Minister Amin-ul-Haq’s Response
In a more recent development, Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication, Amin-ul-Haq, has taken notice of the issue and written to the Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar, to direct the central bank to resume the payments.
In light of the above-mentioned issue, he also asserted that the government and SBP must consult with the IT Ministry in the future while making IT-related decisions.
گوگل ایپلی کیشن کی بندش/امین الحق کا بیان
وزیر خزانہ معاملے کا فوری نوٹس لیتے ہوئے اسٹیٹ بینک کو ادائیگی جاری رکھنے کی ہدایت کریں. ضروری ہے کہ مستقبل میں آئی ٹی وٹیلی کام کے حوالے سے فیصلوں میں وزارت کی مشاورت لازمی شامل کی جائے." (امین الحق) pic.twitter.com/8fVA2DGirg
— Ministry of IT & Telecom (@MoitOfficial) November 26, 2022
Additionally, he underscored the problems and challenges that the telecom sector is already facing, which are further aggravated by SBP’s payment suspension.
He also confirmed that the services of free apps on Google Play Store will continue to be available, adding that blocking payments to international organizations will bring the country’s name into disrepute, while Android users who operate paid apps or use in-app paid services will face significant difficulties as a result of this decision.
After this official intervention, SBP could probably allow the payment of the pending $34 million. If funds are transferred, the direct carrier billing could be restored and users would be able to buy apps from Google Play Store through direct carrier billing again.