Hidden hand wants to 'sabotage' 3G auction -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Hidden hand wants to ‘sabotage’ 3G auction

By: Zulqernain Tahir

LAHORE: Information technology ministry sees a ‘hidden hand’ that wants to sabotage the process of the much-awaited auction of 3rd Generation Spectrum (3G) licences and fears it may further be delayed if the prime minister fails to intervene in the matter.

The ministry has also informed Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf about hiring of consultants to auction the 3G licences, their recommendations, accord with the Transparency International and ‘unnecessary’ interference by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the process.

“The auction of 3G licences has already been postponed twice during the last one year or so and now some elements have again become active to sabotage the process,” the prime minister’s adviser on IT, Dr Basit Riaz Sheikh, told Dawn on Saturday.

Dr Basit said some people deliberately made the hiring of three consultants controversial to achieve their vested interests.

“The consultants — Dr Rob Nicholls, Dennis Ward and Martin Sims — have been hired for their rich experience in the field for the auction of the licences against Rs52 million,” he said, the objection being raised that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) did not follow the Pakistan Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules while hiring the consultants had no legal ground.

“The PPRA rules are to be followed in procurement of goods/services and not recruitment. The PPRA rules do not apply in case of recruitment of the consultants,” he said, adding the consultants also met the heads of the five telecom operators and National Assembly’s standing committee in this regard.

Dr Basit said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had no jurisdiction to take up this matter. Earlier, the NAB had questioned the process being adopted for auctioning the 3G licences, claiming that it was not in line with the PPRA rules.

“NAB has no jurisdiction in this case and we have signed an agreement with the Transparency International so that nobody could raise finger on the transparency of the auction process,” he said. Dr Basit said the government was expecting US$1 billion revenue from the auction and it would also create 40,000 jobs.

“The country is being deprived of Rs68 million revenue because of delay in the auction,” he said. He said if the process remained ‘hurdle-free’ the government would be able to offer the auction to all five telecom operators – Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor, Zong and Warid – next month.

The 3G represents a spectrum allowing higher speeds of data transmission. The 3G spectrum is a latest technology in cell phone service that provides facilities of mobile TV, video-conferencing, tele-medicine, location-based services and video on demand.The 3G licencing has been successfully carried out in most of the neighboring countries, including India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.