BlackBerry has officially confirmed that it will exit one of its key markets in South Asia. The company will no longer operate in Pakistan after 30 December. The exit was originally scheduled for 30 November, but the Pakistan government extended the shutdown order to 30 December.
Although the government directive was for BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) servers only, the Canadian tech major decided to exit the market altogether saying: "Pakistan's demand for open access to monitor a significant swath of our customers' communications within its borders left us no choice but to exit the country entirely." It promised to protect the communications of users wherever it operates across the globe.
Citing the reason behind the move, BlackBerry said Pakistan actually wanted to monitor all BlackBerry Enterprise Service traffic, including BES email and BES BBM messages, but the company was against providing backdoors to user data.
Marty Beard, chief operating officer at BlackBerry, said in a posting on the official BlackBerry site: "Pakistan's demand was not a question of public safety; we are more than happy to assist law enforcement agencies in investigations of criminal activity. Rather, Pakistan was essentially demanding unfettered access to all of our BES customers' information. The privacy of our customers is paramount to BlackBerry, and we will not compromise that principle."
Earlier in July, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) issued directions to local mobile phone operators informing them that BlackBerry's BES servers would no longer operate in the country starting December due to "security reasons".
The company then said: "BlackBerry provides the world's most secure communications platform to government, military and enterprise customers. Protecting that security is paramount to our mission. While we recognise the need to cooperate with lawful government investigative requests of criminal activity, we have never permitted wholesale access to our BES servers."
This is not the first time the company is facing such issues. It had encountered similar problems in India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. In 2010, BlackBerry services were banned in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, but the bans were lifted in some states, but with restrictions. Even Prime Minister David Cameron considered banning BlackBerry Messenger in the UK during the 2011 riots.