Minister says cannot stop 3G/4G auction

* Senate committee says with PTA incomplete, auction is unlawful

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology on Thursday directed the IT Ministry and PTA to stop the auction of 3G/4G until the board of PTA completes.
However, Minister of State for IT Anusha Rehman said the auction could not be stopped as there are international commitments to be met. The committee observed that with the vacant post of a Member of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the Authority is not complete and could not conduct auction of 3G/4G. The committee recommended that till the completion of PTA board, the auction process may be postponed and constituted a three members sub-committee to look into the matter in the light of the Supreme Court, Lahore High Court and PTA act within a week time and submit the report to this committee. The committee would comprise on Zahid Khan- convener, Syed Faisal Raza Abidi and Rafique Rajwana as its members. The sub-committee would meet on April 16.
Senators Zahid Khan and Faisal Raza Abdi claimed in absence of PTA three members board, the auction of 3G/4G may be unlawful. Anusha Rehman State Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication tod the committee that the auction of 3G/4G would be held on 23rd of the current month with the base price of $1.3 billion without further delay as it was an international commitment. This she stated while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication which met with Mohammad Idrees Khan Safi in the chair.
On this the minister said the parliamentary panel could give recommendations and may place in the Senate as well following rules, however these recommendation are not binding on the government. Chairman PTA Syed Ismail Shah quoting Article-10 of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act, 1996 (with 2006 amendments), said that no act or proceeding of the Authority shall be invalid by reason only of the exercise of a vacancy in, or a defect in, the constitution of the Authority by the Pakistan Telecommunication (Reorganization) Act, (Amendment) Act, 2006.
Joint Secretary of the Cabinet informed the committee that an international reputed company has shortlisted names against the vacant post of Member PTA and sent to the Commission constituted on the direction of Supreme Court of Pakistan. The Member is likely to be appointed anytime soon. He further said that on the direction of SC, currently the charge of the Member PTA is assigned to Secretary Law division as additional charge. 
Senator Syed Faisal Raza Abidi said that according to the Lahore High Court order, a bureaucrat could not be inducted to an independent body like PTA, so how an additional charge has been assigned to a bureaucrat. Chairman of the Committee said that if Authority is not complete, how the auction would be held. The committee further recommended disbanding of the Advisory Committee for spectrum auction, saying that fingers would be raised over the involvement of other people in the auction process.
Anusha Rehman said that the committee was constituted with the approval of the Prime Minister to finalize the policy directive on spectrum auction for next generation mobile services in the country, which is the prerogative of the federal government as per section 8 of the Pakistan Telecom Reorganization Act. The ToRs of the committee was to examine and finalize the policy directive on spectrum auction and to oversee the auction process to be conducted by PTA. The spectrum auction of 3G/4G has financial implications to the national exchequer; therefore the Prime Minister designated Finance Minister. However Senator Rehman Malik said that the committee would be better to comprise on people from private sector and not from government. On this the Minister said that the role of the committee has come to an end and the Ministry would write to Prime Minister for the de-notification of the committee.
The committee further showed concerns over the non-implementation of the recommendations made in its meeting held on February 26, 2013 regarding re-instatement of Riaz Ashar Siddique as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Universal Service Fund (USF) who was illegally removed from the post. Secretary IT Akhlaq Ahmad Tarar sought time from the committee to inform it about the real facts for non-compliance of the recommendations. The body recommended looking into the matter and reporting to the committee within two weeks.

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