PTA boss dodging cabinet division -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

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PTA boss dodging cabinet division

Abdul Sattar Khan

LAHORE: Despite a week long hectic persuasive sessions by the Cabinet Division Secretary Nargis Sethi, PTA Chairman Dr Mohammad Yaseen has withdrawn just a portion of his much controversial internal order of May 14th, 2010, pertaining to power sharing among the chairman and the two members of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), thus still keeping a greater part of the administrative powers in own his hands.

Following a detailed discussion in a meeting chaired by Nargis Sethi held on February 22, a letter was issued on February 24 by the cabinet division secretary requesting the PTA chairman to restore the powers of the two members of the Authority immediately by withdrawing internal order of the PTA dated May 14, 2010, to ensure smooth function in the PTA. Four days after receiving the second letter from the cabinet secretary, the PTA chairman issued a letter on February 28, claiming to have restored the powers of both the PTA members – finance and technical – by withdrawing his earlier controversial internal notification.

However, much to the surprise of the concerned quarters, the new PTA letter of Feb 28 has withdrawn the most ineffective part of the internal order while the most significant portion of the same order is still not withdrawn, thus rendering the entire exercise merely useless. This is despite the fact that instructions issued on behalf of incumbent Secretary Nargis Sethi by the Cabinet Division through its letters of Jan 21 and Feb 24, had clearly asked him to withdraw the letter of May 14, 2010, alongwith the five bullet points to restore the pre-14th May situation.

The first letter by the Cabinet Division even informed the PTA chairman that the audit authorities have also taken cognisance of May 14 order and raised objections on account of expenditure incurred without lawful authorities for the year 2010-11. The same latter by the Cabinet Division says: “Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Act, 1996 does not empower the chairman PTA to withdraw powers of authority members through a simple letter.” The chairman was thus asked to take both the members on board while taking important decisions.

As the PTA chairman did not move despite receiving the letter, the Cabinet Division once again geared up its efforts and held a session with him on February 22, chaired the by cabinet division secretary where the PTA boss was again asked to withdraw the controversial order. Two days later, on February 24, the second letter was issued on behalf of the secretary whereby the chairman was requested to restore powers of both the PTA members immediately. Four days later, having received a fresh warning, PTA boss instead of following the instructions in letter and spirit, partially withdrew the May 14 order, leaving a considerable room for the PTA chairman to continue enjoying much more powers than what he is supposed to be under the relevant rules.

Out of five total bullet points of the controversial May 14 order, three points (2,3 and 5) have been withdrawn while two bullet points i.e. 1 and 4 have been left to be resolve under a plea that these two points could only be withdrawn after obtaining legal opinion from the Ministry of Justice & Law.

Bullet point 2, which has been withdrawn says “all DGs and independent directors shall report directly to the chairman PTA”, bullet point 3 says “the matters requiring attention/decision of the authority for its functions, powers and responsibilities (as laid down in Sect 4,5 &6 of the Tele Act) shall be brought to the notice of the authority through DG Internal Affairs/secretary by the respective division/directorate”, and bullet point 5 says that “in all regulatory matters/issues, the decision shall be taken by the authority in accordance with section 3 (9) of the act”.

Two bullet points, which have yet to be withdrawn include point 1 which says “that the power delegated and the role assigned to the members of the authority in matters relating to administration and staff of PTA through various policies, minutes of meetings, delegation of powers, decisions, files etc are hereby withdrawn with immediate effect”, and point 4 which envisages that “all matters relating to administration, finance and personnel of PTA shall be dealt, exclusively by the chairman in accordance with section 3(8) of the act”.

It may be mentioned that the bullet point 1 which has not been withdrawn clearly says the powers of both the members have been withdrawn. Since this bullet point which snatched the powers of both the members is still intact and has not yet withdrawn, how could the PTA chairman claim that the powers of the members have been restored to the pre-May 14th position. Similarly, the bullet point 4 which says that “all matters relating to administration, finance and personnel of PTA shall be dealt exclusively by the chairman” has also not been withdrawn yet, the Feb 28 order of the PTA chairman, through which he claimed having honoured the instructions of the Cabinet Division, once again does not qualify the ground realities.

Many officials in the Cabinet Division and even within the PTA are convinced that referring those bullet points, which have not been withdrawn, to the Ministry of Law & Justice can only be described as a delaying tactic and a lame excuse to defer implementation of clear instructions of the Cabinet Division for personal gains. As per these officials, who wished not to be named, “the entire letter of May 14 should have been withdrawn and if there was any confusion regarding any amongst the five bullet points, the matter could have been referred to the Law & Justice Division for interpretation before going for partial implementation of the cabinet division instructions”.

Moreover, the PTA letter of Feb 28 also intends to place a major portion of controversy on the two members who have allegedly been deprived of their due powers by stating that “the action have been taken only due to the specific request of secretary cabinet division as well as to facilitate the processing of regulatory cases of telecom industry in PTA as such cases relating to industry have been continually delayed by the two members on the pretext of the orders of 14th May, 2010”.

In two different replies given by the PTA’s official spokesperson, which The News received through official email address of the PTA, the Authority has taken a stance that the May 14, 2010, letter was withdrawn by the PTA with effect from February 28, 2011, except for bullet points 1 and 4 of the letter which require interpretation of certain provisions of Telecom Act 1996 and thus cannot be withdrawn without obtaining legal opinion from Ministry of Law and Justice as per rules of business 1973 which has been requested through Cabinet Division”.

The PTA reply added: “In view of above, new workflow and delegation of powers documents with slight amendments have been issued effective 28th Feb, 2011 (today) whereby chairman PTA has delegated some of his powers to the members of the authority. However, in addition it is stated that regulatory powers of members were never withdrawn through the said letter as the same cannot be withdrawn under Telecom Act 1996. PTA has only taken this action due to the specific letters of Secretary Cabinet Division as well as to facilitate the processing of the regulatory cases of Telecom industry in PTA.”

When The News requested the PTA to explain why the May 14 order has not been withdrawn as per the instructions of the Cabinet Division while keeping the most significant portion of May 14 order intact, this scribe received another email from the PTA, saying: “The points have been withdrawn to further facilitate processing of industry/regulatory cases in PTA. The points that have not been withdrawn have no effects on the regulatory work of PTA. The points not withdrawn relate to specific sections of the act 1996 having clearly legal implications that have always been well understood in PTA but now disagreed by the two members and therefore requiring interpretation by the competent authority i.e. M/o Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs under ‘rules of business 1973’.”

Approached by The News, Nargis Sethi, Secretary Cabinet Division, said she seriously intended to resolve the issue to ensure a smooth functioning in the PTA. “I have done everything possible to get things straight without hurting any of the member of the authority. Now I can claim that once the things have started moving towards settlement, all the remaining issues such as the remaining part of the May 14 internal notification would also be resolved amicably,” Sethi asserted, adding that she is going to call even the PTA members to get the issue resolve once for all.
Source: The News