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ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Rawalpindi on Thursdayfiled a reference in the accountability court of Islamabad against former secretary and other senior officials of the information technology (IT) ministry for their alleged involvement in establishing an international clearing house (ICH) that provided an edge to some telecommunication companies for controlling and receiving international and long distance calls.

According to NAB, the reference was filed against Farooq Ahmad Awan, ex-secretary Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom; Kamran Ali, ex-member (legal), and officers/officials of the ministry, Pakistan Telecommunication Company (PTCL), Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and others.

Interestingly, two former prime ministers of PPP’s last tenure - Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf - were also involved in the case but NAB made two separate references, one relating to the officials of the IT ministry and the second about the alleged involvement of the two ex-prime ministers.

Mr Gilani and Mr Ashraf have already recorded their statements in the case.

They were also allegedly involved in fixing ICH tariff by misusing their powers benefiting some private telecommunication firms in controlling and receiving international and long distance calls along with some illegal appointments as well.

About the reasons behind splitting the reference into two, a source in NAB said two separate issues were being covered in one reference but now it had been decided that two separate references would be filed.

The clearing house was formed on Oct 2, 2012, through alleged lobbying of long distance and international operators.

It has also been learnt that the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) tried to block the formation of the clearing house but those in power foiled its attempt. The CCP was of the view that the clearing house was established without meeting the due competitive process.

According to NAB, Farooq Ahmad Awan served as the secretary of the IT ministry when the approval was given for establishing the ICH. He was accused of allegedly overstepping his mandate by fixing tariffs of the ICH which was the sole mandate of the PTA.

Hence, he misused his authority, aided and abetted while acting in conspiracy with his co-accused Kamran Ali in the grant of undue and illegal benefit to the companies which earned them windfall profits.

The source said Mr Gilani, Farooq Awan and others were accused of awarding advertisement campaign contracts to a firm against the PPRA rules. The illegal contracts inflicted a Rs128.07 million loss on the national exchequer, the source added.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2018