For four days last week, Pakistan’s tech industry lost between $3 million and $4 million a day as internet services across the world’s fifth-most populous nation were shut down amid political turmoil.

On May 9, Pakistan’s former prime minister and popular politician Imran Khan was arrested in Islamabad on charges of corruption. This led to widespread protests across the country, and the government imposed an “indefinite” internet shutdown in several regions. On May 12, the Supreme Court ruled Khan’s arrest illegal, and he was subsequently released. Internet services in Pakistan have now been restored, but the damage has already been done.

The shutdown was a “massive setback” for the country’s IT industry, the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) said in a tweet on May 11. “This is an alarming situation, and action needs to be taken urgently to address this issue,” it said in another tweet. “P@SHA demands immediate action to resolve the problem.”

Careem, inDrive, Foodpanda, and Bykea were among the companies that took the worst hit from the internet suspension, reported independent news platform ProPakistani.

Pakistan’s telecomms industry also lost $5.4 million in revenue due to the shutdown, a source told Al Jazeera on May 12. “The devastating effect on the economy is quantifiable but the inconvenience to people is incalculable,” tweeted Aamir Hafeez Ibrahim, CEO of mobile network operator Jazz.

In a letter to the government last week, Pakistan-focused venture capital association VCAP said such “restrictions have an immediate and adverse impact on Pakistan’s startups, which are reliant on such platforms for new user acquisition and growth. The suspension of mobile broadband also greatly impacts Pakistani citizens, who are mobile-first, and use these digital solutions for financial services, mobility, food, commerce, and more.”

Meanwhile, freelance workers in the country also lost access to the outside world during the shutdown. Pakistan is the third-largest global supplier of freelance work, and IT services make up a large chunk of it. Employers seeking Pakistani workers on freelance marketplace Fiverr were met with a note that read: “This freelancer is in a location currently experiencing internet disruptions. As a result, they may not be able to fulfill orders as quickly as usual.”

The crisis could not have come at a worse time for Pakistan’s tech workers, and the industry as a whole. The country has been dealing with a massive economic crisis, with dwindling forex reserves. It is currently waiting on a $1.1 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. Pakistan’s foreign direct investment (FDI) plunged 44% in the first seven months of the 2023 financial year.

Calling it “absolutely nonsense from the international point of view,” Wille Eerola, chairman of the Finland Pakistan Business Council, said the internet shutdown is “only harming — or even destroying — the image of Pakistan as a country for international business and FDI.”