Pakistan Telecommunication Authority power struggle spills onto Islamabad streets
By: Mehtab Haider
ISLAMABAD: The ongoing power tussle in the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) took a new twist on Wednesday when hundreds of protesters demanded that the chief justice of Pakistan take suo moto notice of the ‘illegal’ harassment of two members of the authority.
The protesters, including PTA officers and representatives of the Internet Service Providers Association (Ispak) and civil society, marched towards the D Chowk in front of parliament and demanded registration of FIRs against the secretary interior, DSP of the Secretariat Police Station and PTA official Sajjad Latif Awan.
According to the protesters, the three tried to coerce PTA Member Technical Dr Khawar Siddique Khokhar and Member Finance Syed Nasrul Kareem Ghaznavi to sign off on an information memorandum for the auction of third generation auction of third generation licenses worth $2 billion. When the two offered resistance, accused the protesters, Awan and Co attempted to illegally arrest them.
This tussle over the 3G auctions has intensified in the wake of the Lahore High Court’s stay order against the appointment of PTA Chairman Farooq Awan and a directive for him to discontinue work till the resolution of the matter.
According to Ispak representative Wahajus Siraj, the PTA had revoked the appointment of consultants for the 3G licenses auction but pressure from some Western capitals forced the government to reconsider its decision. “In order to get Khokhar and Ghaznavi to sign the IM, the interior ministry attempted to get the two arrested from the PTA headquarters,” said Siraj, who also claimed that the Secretariat police station had refused to file an FIR against the DSP, secretary interior and Awan.
“The police did try to arrest us without showing warrants and it’s only because of the intervention of the PTA employees that they were unable to,” Ghaznavi confirmed to The News, adding that he was considering quitting his job because of the pressure on him.
However, Sajjad Latif Awan insists that the issue is being twisted. “The PTA scrapped the contracts of consultants for 3G auction on November 21, 2012 so why would we need Khokhar and Ghaznavi’s signatures on the IM?” According to Awan, the real issue is about the FIA inquiry into allegations of corruption worth Rs28 million, levelled by one member against the other. “PTA members are also granting lifetime perks and privileges to themselves just ahead of their retirement.”
Sajjad Awan also denies accusations regarding his involvement in the ‘illegal attempt to arrest’ the two. “I had gone to court to file a petition against my having been made Officer on Special Duty by the office of DG Enforcement; when I came back, the police party had already entered the PTA premises. The police just asked me about the location of Khokhar and Ghaznavi’s offices and I merely guided them; I wasn’t abetting them”.
However, Ghaznavi isn’t buying this line of reasoning. “Even if the FIA wants to conduct an enquiry against us for our alleged role in the issue, manhandling is not the right way.” However, Ghaznavi claims he doesn’t know who’s behind this campaign.