Controversy over appointment of new PTA chairman deepens
By: Abdul Sattar Khan
LAHORE: In addition to expression of doubts on the controversial appointment of new Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Farooq Awan by the Senate Standing Committee chairman, several other serious complications appear to have further deepened the controversy.
The Cabinet Division and the Establishment Division have adopted conflicting approaches, documents available with The News reveal. These documents show the contradictions in the interpretation of two relevant sections of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organisation) Act 1996, which provide the procedure for the appointment of PTA members and chairman.
The Cabinet Division is sticking to the point that the criteria of both the PTA members and chairman is the same while the Establishment Division interpretation relies on one crucial point that the relevant sections are expressive on the appointment of two members but is silent on the appointment of a third member.
As the word goes, Nargis Sethi, secretary of the Cabinet Division, to which the PTA actually reports, has heavily quoted two sections elaborating the legal procedure to appoint the PTA members and chairman according to which Section 3 (2) of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organisation) Act 1996 stipulates that the authority would consist of three members one of whom would be a professional telecommunication engineer and other would be a financial expert while Section 3 (3) of the same act provides that the federal government would, from amongst the members appointed, appoint a member to be the chairman of the authority.
Even in response to a query of the Senate Secretariat, the Cabinet Division has taken a similar stance on July 26, 2012, just two days before the appointment of Farooq Awan, by stating: “PTA is a regulatory body, which was established under the provisions of Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organisation) Act, 1996. According to Section 3 (3) of the same act the chairman shall be appointed from amongst the members appointed under Section 3 (2). As the chairman is chosen from amongst the two members, i.e. member (tech) and member (finance), therefore, the criteria of chairman PTA is the same as of member (tech) and member (finance)”.
However, on the other hand, the Establishment Division in its summary has taken a different stance by stating that “the law is very clear that any member from amongst the three members can be appointed as chairman PTA and the law does not mention the area of expertise for the member, other than technical and finance”.
Subsequently, the Establishment Division proposed Farooq Awan to be posted as PTA member under Section 10 of the Civil Servants Act, 1973.Another important aspect of the whole issue has also brought the two powerful divisions on conflicting path as the Cabinet Division has recommended to the PM Secretariat to expedite the process of increasing the number of PTA members from three to five with the creation of new posts of member (commercial affairs) and member (legal & regulations) which was still in the process and the appointment has been made without waiting for the process to be completed and without ensuring that legal cover is available.
In her concluding paragraph, Nargis Sethi on July 26 recommended: “The selection of the two new members i.e. member (CA) and member (legal & regulations) be completed within a period of one month during which the posts will be advertised and thereafter the selection committee will finalise the appointment of two new members of PTA”.
It appears amazing that just after two days, on July 28, the appointment was made without considering the recommendations of Nargis Sethi for the completion of the exercise for the selection of the newly created posts within one month nor selection committee was formed to finalise the appointment of two new members.
On the other hand, the Establishment Division has taken a stance in different way by stating in its summary: “As regards expansion in the membership is concerned, the issue is not relevant with the matter in hand. Views of the Establishment Division on said expansion will be given as and when the matter is referred to this division”.
When contacted, Secretary Establishment Taimur Usman reiterated his department’s stance as was visible in the summary by saying: “Every step has been taken as per the spirit of the relevant sections of the telecom act 1996 as law is very much clear on account of posting of two members i.e. member tech and member finance but the law is silent on account of elaborating the area of expertise of the third member”.
Similarly, he explained: “Anyone among the members can be appointed the chairman PTA which exactly has happened in case of Farooq Awan’s appointment first as member, then as chairman”.Nargis Sethi was not available for her comment despite dropping messages on her cell phone and her official telephone number.