As Pakistan Telecommunication Authority chairman departs, industry breathes easier
By: Farooq Baloch
KARACHI: He came, he saw, but he just could not conquer.
Farooq Ahmed Awan was the government’s most-trusted bureaucrat, given the responsibility for taking the third generation (3G) mobile spectrum licencing process to its logical end. His tenure as chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), however, came to an abrupt and unceremonious end on Tuesday, after the Lahore High Court (LHC) annulled his appointment.
A powerful bureaucrat otherwise, Awan was appointed chief of the PTA in July last year. Notorious for his arrogance, the bureaucrat did not enjoy a good reputation in the industry. He took several controversial decisions, both in his capacity as IT secretary and as PTA chairman, and disregarded – and at times punished – those who stood in his way.
Awan used this dismissive approach in the auctioning process of the 3G spectrum licences, and hired three consultants without the consensus – and with the fierce opposition – of other board members.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Awan’s termination was seen as a positive development by different factions within the PTA. Several officials reportedly even greeted each other following the development, an official privy to the matter told The Express Tribune.
“The industry was upset with Awan and wanted to be rid of him,” Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) Convener Wahajus Siraj echoed. “Filing a petition against him was the only way out,” said Siraj, who welcomes the LHC’s judgment. “We have never had such a corrupt chairman in the history of PTA.”
Awan had issued a policy directive for establishing the controversial International Clearing House (ICH) in his capacity as IT secretary.
“The ICH had been opposed by all three members of the PTA during Muhammad Yaseen’s tenure, because it was against the PTA Act,” Siraj said. “Awan enforced the directive when he became PTA chairman,” he added.
The Express Tribune contacted Farooq Awan for his comment. “Awan cannot take the call,” said a man who identified himself as Adil, who received the call on Awan’s cellular phone.
Interestingly, even officials from the government seemed happy with his dismissal.
“He [Awan] had become a liability for the government. If the LHC had not terminated him, the government would have sacked him anyway,” said a senior government official, while requesting not to be named.
“Awan’s termination was on the cards. He knew it, as he had not been attending any meetings or office for several weeks,” the official said.
Given that Awan has already departed, and the service terms of Nasarul Karim Ghaznavi and Khawar Khokhar – the remaining two PTA members – are also expiring in February and March respectively, things are moving in the right direction, the official said.
Awan’s termination, however, may not impact the 3G auction, reassured the official. “It will happen at the earliest. The government needs the money.” Telecos, too, do not seem much bothered with his removal.