Blocking gray telephony traffic in country
Delay in buying of equipment causing $700 billion loss
PTA informs NA body that despite many demands no funds were provided for required equipment’s procurement
Islamabad (DailyTimes / Friday, November 30, 2012) – Government of Pakistan has been delaying the procurement and installation of the required equipments worth Rs 1 billion for blocking gray telephony traffic in the country, which is resulting in billions of rupees ($700 million or Rs 66 billion) loss to the national kitty.
The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information Technology meeting presided over by MNA Chaudhry Muhammad Barjees Tahir was informed by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) director vigilance that during the last several meetings PTA had been demanding to install equipment, which automatically intercepts gray traffic. Despite many demands no funds were provided for its procurement. The cost of equipment is just Rs 1 billion, which can be recovered within the next six months after its installation while saving billions of rupees in the country.
PTA legal member and director vigilance also informed the meeting that in order to curb the gray traffic, on the recommendation of PTA, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had conducted some 66 raids in the country, some 51 local and six foreigners had been arrested, 47 were presented before courts, only three were convicted, while 74 illegal gateways had been shut down with confiscation of 360 number of machinery and equipments.
However, only three accused had been convicted by the courts whereby, one had been fined up to Rs 35,000 and remaining faced imprisonment of 25 days. They also informed that among the people arrested during raids, no influential was among them.
They also informed that there was no clear cut definition of gray traffic available in the legislative set of the country and there was also a confusion that sessions court of magistrate would try these cases. They also informed that judges don’t have enough knowledge of this technical issue and due to these reasons, conviction ratio was not as per desired. FIA is not answerable to PTA for effective prosecution of these cases.
They also informed that under the law fine up to Rs 100 million with imprisonment up to three years was available, however, definition of gray traffic is vague due to which law can’t be fully implement in the country.
However, members of the committee were of the view that influential were involved in the country and that’s why no one could ask FIA about its reluctance against people involved in gray traffic.
However, PTA legal member informed the committee that New PTA Act was under consideration by the parliament, which had been tabled as a private member bill and the legislation would include clear cut definition of gray traffic and help courts impose fine up to Rs 100 million on people involved in this illegal activity.
The chairman and members of the committee also expressed their dismay over the delay in auction of 3G spectrum and were of the view that it’s been almost four years and the government has still not completed this transaction. They were also of the view that this transaction was being delayed so that it could be completed by the end of present government’s tenure.
PTA finance member informed the committee that 3G transaction would be completed in the first week of February 2013 as the government had hired the services of three international consultants and they would be recommending auction policy, software and transaction design to the government, some $545,000 would be paid to them for their consultancy work.
He was of the view that the government would be able to fetch auction amount more than its expectations, however, he declined to project the total realization through this transaction. After receipt of consultants report, road shows would be held at key international markets for this action. He also informed that upon directions by the parliamentary committees, PTA had already banned the late night free SMS and free calls packages introduced by the mobile phone companies. The mobile phone companies had obtained stay order from Islamabad High Court against PTA orders and on Thursday they had withdrawn the petition from IHC for implementation of this decision.
The committee also expressed its dismay over the implementation of its recommendations for promotion of information technology and telecommunication in the country.
Bureaucracy had been a major obstacle in the way of parliament’s oversight role and the committee during several meetings since December 30, 2008 to November 2012 had recommended some 71 measures and majority of them remained unimplemented.
IT secretary and PTA chairman were not present in the meeting and the committee observed their absence as against the rules and directed the authorities to ensure their presence in one week’s time so that committee would be able to present its report in the House.