‘Govt has no control over PTCL management’
By Jamal Shahid
ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday told a parliamentary committee that it did not have any control over Pakistan’s largest telecom operator despite 67 per cent shareholding because its management was in foreign hands.
“We cut off our hands when we privatised PTCL,” Mushtaq Ahmad Bhatti, member telecom of the Ministry of Information Technology, told the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information Technology. Tariq Badshah, member IT of the ministry, backed Mr Bhatti: “Management control is with the foreigners.”The NA body believed that the government had unusually more liabilities, given up properties, and delivered nothing to the country from the privatisation of PTCL. “The government has zero per cent power and prestige in controlling the company,” said Ch Mohammad Barjees Tahir, committee’s chairman. The comment met little resistance — mostly silence, irrelevant answers or more time for presentations before the committee next time.
When MNA Marvi Memon inquired why the PTCL was denying its workforce increase in pensions, Mr Bhatti said its management did not want to take on the burden.
Discussion about PTCL dominated the committee proceedings even though it was not on the agenda as the legislators asked the chair to finalise the committee’s findings about the ministry and the company. The committee’s findings had been delayed as Hafeez Sheikh, then minister for privatisation, has never showed up to clear the air despite repeated requests. Chairman Tahir directed to call the members of the PTCL board, and sending one last reminder to Mr Sheikh for the next meeting.
The PTCL officials could not be reached despite repeated attempts.
MNA Advocate Anusha Rehman Khan did not see information technology going forward in Pakistan. “Why are software parks lacking? Investments are in wrong direction. When will the government adopt proactive approach compatible with international practices for maximum returns and ensure jobs for IT graduates?” She also inquired why Pakistan had failed to capture markets to export its software. Chairman Tahir accused the government of doing nothing and failing to deliver. “All the officers sitting here are responsible,Â” he said.
In his defence, Mr Badshah cited lack of human resource development, space, and marketing support as major obstacles. “Graduates are not competent enough.”
MNA Rehman also asked about transparency in getting contracts for Pakistan Telecommunication Foundation (PTF). Aftab Ahmad Chishti, the foundation’s managing director, said contracts were awarded to PTF on preferential basis overlooking competition “but that practice was discontinued three years ago. It’s done through open bidding now.”
The committee’s chairman held up a list of names with fake degrees but working for PTF and directed its MD to provide details of staff, including the general manager working two jobs — an accusation Mr Chishti claimed he had no knowledge of.