Senate panel recommendation to stop 3G, 4G auction rejected by govt
ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday turned down the recommendation of a panel of the Upper House of Parliament for stopping the auction of multi-billion dollars 3G and 4G technologies till hiring of third member of the PTA and completion of the Authority.
After a heated debate over this issue during the meeting, the Chairman of Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology, Muhammad Idrees Khan Safi, in his ruling, recommended to the government to stop the process of auction of 3G and 4G till completion of the PTA and constituted a three member sub-committee for presenting its report after listening to the viewpoint of the government as well as Senators belonging to opposition benches.
However, in an abrupt manner, the Minister of State for IT, Anusha Rehman, told the meeting that the government was not bound to implement the ruling of the chairman of the committee. “As a committee, you are empowered to send your recommendation to the Senate, but the government will not implement your rulings in this regard,” she made it clear.
When the chairman announced his ruling over stopping the spectrum auction, the minister for IT had left the room just few minutes before this announcement. The IT secretary hurriedly sent out officials of the ministry and Anusha Rehman came back into the Committee Room No 1 of the Parliament House.
During the meeting, the senators, belonging to opposition benches, especially Senator Faisal Raza Abidi, raised different points and said that he opposed this transaction during the PPP led regime and would not allow sale of such an important asset in haste.
At one point of time, Senator Faisal Raza Abidi exchanged hot words with PPP Senator Rehman Malik and stood up from his seat and asked the former PPP minister to walk out from the meeting if he desired so, but he would not remain silent on this issue.
“First of all, the government will have to complete PTA by hiring its third member before auction of 3G and 4G,” he said and referred to a verdict of the Lahore High Court which barred the government not to hire any bureaucrat as member of the PTA.
But the government took the stand that the Supreme Court in one of its suo moto case had given observation for giving additional charge of Law secretary as member of the PTA. IT Secretary Akhalque Tarar told the committee that the commission established by the government decided to re-advertise the slot of third member of the PTA because only two applications were received for this position. Now renowned firm has been hired for the process of short listing of application and the hiring of third member into the PTA will be completed, he added.
This whole debate erupted during the proceedings of Senate Panel when the PTA Chairman, Dr Ismail Shah, was going to start his presentation on 3G and 4G spectrum auctions.Senator Raza Abidi asked the PTA chairman to inform the committee about the members of the Authority. The PTA chairman replied that there were two members, including him and another one, had gone abroad for attending a workshop while acting charge of third member was lying with the Law secretary.
The senators agitated forcefully on this point by arguing that the PTA was incomplete and the government could not accomplish auction of 3G and 4G spectrums.At the start of the meeting, the senators protested over receiving official documents with undue delays. The IT Ministry was of the view the whole team was busy for successful completion of upcoming transaction which was due on April 23, 2014, and they had requested the committee to hold this meeting after completion of this transaction.
On this issue, official communications exchanged between the Ministry of IT and Senate Panel and finally it was decided that the Ministry will brief the committee on 3G and 4G auctions.In the meeting, the minister of state for IT agreed to a proposal given by Senator Rehman Malik of the PPP for de-notifying the Auction Supervisory Committee, led by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. The Minister for IT said that the Supervisory Committee had accomplished its work by preparing policy in consultation with the stakeholders and the prime minister would be asked to de-notify it. Now, it will be responsibility of the PTA to accomplish transaction of 3G and 4G in transparent manner.