Rs25m lost in grey trafficking every year, says Pakistan Telecommunication Authority
By: Rana Ghulam Qadir
ISLAMABAD: Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Farooq Ahmed Awan on Saturday confessed before a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee for the Cabinet Secretariat that Rs20 to 25 million of grey trafficking (theft) of telephone calls was being carried out in the country every year and that the PTA desperately needed equipment to stop this grey trafficking.
He told the committee that only thirty percent monitoring could be done through the present available equipment. The meeting of the Standing Committee was chaired by its Chairman Diwan Ashiq Hussain Bukhari.
The PTA chairman told the committee that in three years (from 2009 to 2011) 45 raids had been conducted to stop grey trafficking and that 71 cases were sent to the FIA.
He added that 26 cases were currently under investigation in the FIA while 15 cases had been decided.
He said 12 persons were punished while an Rs21.717 million fine had been imposed.
When the members of the committee asked about the auction of the 3G licence, the PTA chairman said that the work on issuance of 3G licence has been started again and in this regard advertisement would be carried out next week.
He also said he expected that the auction process would be completed by the end of this year.
The PTA chairman said that there were six million mobile phone users while the number of broadband users stood at 2,101,315. He also told the committee that there was a 10 percent withholding charge in the tariff of mobile phone calls, 14.68 percent Federal Excise Duty, five percent service charge, and two percent operation and maintenance charges and the total charges stood at 31.68.
He said that telecom industry had paid Rs109.97 million in 2011-12.
He said that the sector of enforcement was working devotedly as the controversial websites are blocked.
The members of the committee criticised the services of mobile companies and said messages were sent through wrong numbers and mobile phones were regularly stolen as well.
The chairman said that the numbers of stolen mobiles were blocked.
He said that a service was being provided to the consumers wherein the numbers could be blocked by dialling a special number, however cases have been sent to the FIA for criminal action. Hemeedullah Jan Afridi said that caution should be observed while issuing licence to telecom companies for the installation of towers.
He said that permission should not be granted for installing towers on buildings in Blue Area in Islamabad, rather they should be erected in forested areas. The committee was told that influential persons were involved in grey trafficking and this was damaging the national economy in millions. The PTA was urged to take effective measures to stop grey traffic.
Additional Secretary Cabinet Division Shahid Malik Baig supported this proposal, although Diwan Ashiq Awan said that the committee recommended that a PTA board should be formed.
The PTA chairman welcomed this proposal, and said that towers are not injurious to health but rather to the environment that was becoming steadily more polluted due to the generators operating there.
The PTA chairman said that legislation would be undertaken for stopping objectionable messages and that an amendment would also be made in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for declaring this to be a punishable offence.