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Committee wants PTA chief’s name on ECL

July 05, 2012

ISLAMABAD, July 5: The Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly asked the interior ministry on Thursday to place the names of chairman and members of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s board on the Exit Control List for allegedly promoting grey traffic in the telecom sector, causing huge losses to the exchequer.

A meeting of the PAC, presided over by its chairman Nadeem Afzal Gondal, also ordered the Cabinet Division to initiate an inquiry against the accused.

The PTA board consists of chairman, member (finance) and member (technical).

Mr Gondal, Khwaja Asif, Afzal Sindhu, Ayaz Sadiq, Shehnaz Sheikh and Khurram Dastagir supported the move, but Riaz Hussain Pirzada, Riaz Fatyana and Saeed Ahmed Zafar opposed it, saying the accused had a right to reply to the charges.

“If found guilty, they should be put on the ECL,” Mr Pirzada said.

Riaz Hussain Pirzada walked out of the meeting after Khwaja Asif accused him, Mr Fatyana and Mr Zafar of patronising PTA chairman Dr Mohammad Yaseen.

The PAC chief said there was no charge against Mr Yaseen or anyone else at the moment, but it required clearance of all audit paras of the past four years relating to the PTA.

“I fear that Mr Yaseen holds dual nationality and he may leave the country after his retirement in the last week of the month,” Mr Gondal said.

The PAC members stressed the need to hold a special audit and inquiry to look into allegations levelled against Mr Yaseen in a letter by a suspended member (finance) of the PTA.

The letter accused the PTA chairman of increasing specified rates of AAR/ASF/APC from $0.10 to $0.125 per minute without a formal approval of the authority.

“The increase in per minute rates unleashed floodgates of grey traffic to avid higher rates,” the letter said. “International Telephony is now touching around 500 million minutes per month and as per some estimates around 30 to 40 per cent minutes per month are through the ‘grey trafficking’.”

Meanwhile, Khwaja Asif claimed that the government had been losing revenue for six billion minutes annually due to grey trafficking.

There are other allegations too against the PTA chairman, involving embezzlement of billions of rupees.

The PTA chairman said at the meeting: “I worked hard for the country for four years, but instead of giving any reward, my name is being placed on the ECL.”

He assured the PAC that he would not leave the country till completion of the enquiry.

IT Secretary Farooq Awan informed the meeting that the PTA had determined $291 million as base price for auction of 3G licence. Six people had been short listed for hiring as international consultants, but the Auction Supervisory Committee had expressed serious reservations over their names, he added.

Khwaja Asif said India had auctioned 3G licence at $69 billion each. “Indian market is five times bigger than that of Pakistan, so our estimated revenue from this auction has to be around $800 million. $291 million base price for 3G licence auction is an injustice with the nation,” he said.