ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecomm­un­i­cation Employees Trust (PTET) on Tuesday sought a week to respond if it can clear arrears of pensioners of the Pakistan Telecommunication Company.

The PTET has been maintaining that it is unable to disburse Rs40 billion in arrears to the 40,000 PTCL pensioners unless it is provided additional funds.

However, a meeting of the Senate Sub-committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication ordered all the board members of the PTET to clear arrears within the month of May.

“While PTET claims its funds would deplete completely if it clears all arrears, we believe that there is enough money to clear outstanding dues of pensioners,” PPP Senator Rukhsana Zuberi, the chairperson of the sub-committee, observed.

The sub-committee was formed to inquire why the PTET, which is the custodian of former PTCL employees’ funds, had not paid them increase in their pensions to settle the issue.

PTET seeks one week for reply on the issue from Senate Sub-committee on Information Technology

The chairperson said she was optimistic that meetings with the PTET management were reaching a conclusion.

“We have ascertained after scrutinising audit reports as well as statements of assets and details of revenue generation that the PTET has sufficient funds to clear arrears of the pensioners,” the chairperson said.

“Besides the government of Pakistan has given a sovereign guarantee that it will come to the rescue of the PTET if its funds deplete,” said Rukhsana Zuberi.

PPP Senator Rehman Malik said that the increase in the pension announced by the government was the right of the former employees of the PTCL.

The PTET had said that it was obligated to pay around Rs116bn pension disbursement and currently, the size of the trust’s fund was Rs109bn, leaving a deficit of Rs7bn. The Rs40bn arrears are in addition to the Rs116bn.

Before the end of its tenure (2008-2013), the Pakistan Peoples Party’s government had announced a 20 per cent increase in pensions of retired employees of the PTCL.

Prior to 2010, the board of trustees of the PTET used to give raises to PTCL pensioners similar to the federal government pension increases depending on the funds availability with the trust.

However, from 2010 onwards, the PTET board of trustees started to exercise its powers according to the Pakistan Telecomm­unication (Reorganisation) Act, 1996, which approved disbursement of annual pension increases to retired PTCL employees separate from the government pensioners.

The meeting was informed that the Trust found the pension increase financially unviable. The trust has continued to disburse regular pensions to retired PTCL employees every month and on time. Moreover, since its inception, annual pension increases have also been given to all pensioners, but the PTET did not disburse the 20 per cent increase in pensions of PTCL employees announced by the PPP government in 2010 and arrears of that increase had been accumulating since then.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2019