ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Postal Services on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to empower the post office department to improve its services and compete with the private sector.

The “Post Office Bill 2019” was tabled by Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) Senator Khushbakht Shujat during the sitting of the house on March 4.

The draft bill was referred by the chairman to the standing committee on postal services for consideration and finalising a report for presentation in the house.

As Ms Shujat is the chairperson of the standing committee, she participated in its several meetings as a member when the bill was discussed.

On Tuesday, the meeting was chaired by Mirza Mohammad Afridi.

The meeting was attended by Senator Anwar Lal Dean, Senator Khushbakht Shujat and senior officers of the Ministry of Postal Services.

The chairman of the committee said there was a need to abolish the old system of postal service and bring it at a par with the new technology and demands of the new era so that people would again start depending on the post office rather than the private sector.

He said the bill also suggested a number of improvements in the department.

The mover said all members should support the bill as it would be beneficial for the department as well as the country.E-facilities, including electronic money transfer, e-postal services, e-finance services, e-commerce services, e-government services, authority, penalties and other proposals are recommended in the proposed bill.

The committee unanimously passed the bill which will now be sent to the upper house and after voting would be refereed to the National Assembly.

The committee was informed that no induction had been made on 4,000 vacant posts in the department due to a stay order.

The committee expressed displeasure over the delay in the induction process and directed Pakistan Post to initiate hiring as soon as possible.The department has been working under Act 1898 which is not meeting the modern world requirements and there was a need for several amendments. The institution has 46,000 employees of which 29,000 are regular. It was in profit till 2009 but has been facing losses for the last many years.

The total budget of the institution is Rs18 billion whereas it has to pay around Rs16 billion as pension and salary.

Except Pakistan Post and Pakistan Railways, the government is paying salaries and pensions of all other departments.

The postal department was created by the British government in the 18th century. In 1947, it began functioning as the Department of Post and Telegraph. In 1962, it was separated from the Telegraph and Telephone and started working as an independent attached department.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2019