Telecom regulator: Possible headway towards 3G auction
By: Farooq Baloch
KARACHI: After disappointing the Supreme Court (SC) in a previous hearing, the federal government has finally come up with two names to fill the positions of members and chairman of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on the last day of the deadline given by the apex court, The Express Tribune has learned.
The Prime Minister’s special commission – for the appointments on key government posts – has shortlisted Dr Ismail Shah for the position of Member Technical as well as Chairman of PTA, a government official confirmed on the condition of anonymity.
The commission has also shortlisted Tariq Sultan for the position of Member Finance, PTA, the official said. The appointment of Member Compliance and Enforcement – a new position which was in PTA earlier this year through a Statutory Regulatory Order – has been withheld, he said.
The cabinet division didn’t issue any official notification in this regard till the filing of this report. The official, however, said the commission has shortlisted these two candidates to comply with the SC’s deadline, which ended on Thursday, September 26 – the next hearing in this case is due on Friday (today).
Earlier this month, the SC had directed the government to appoint members and chairman of PTA – the telecom sector’s regulatory body responsible – for the auction of 3G spectrum licenses by September 16. The commission however failed to meet the deadline and sought more time to complete the hiring process. On September 17 the court gave another 10 days to the government to fill the aforesaid positions which have been vacant since March.
The SC, which is hearing a petition seeking a quick completion of 3G auction, may not be entirely disappointed this time because the government will present these names before the court to demonstrate they have made some progress, the official said.
These names are the commission’s recommendations and not the final members, the official said. However, once the names are presented to the court they are likely to be the final selection, he said. The unfilled positions of PTA’s chairman and members are, apparently, the only obstacle in the rollout of 3G mobile technology.
Soon after talk of Dr Shah being considered for the PTA’s chairmanship leaked out of the cabinet, a positive sentiment prevailed across the telecom sector.
“I don’t know if this is confirmed news but this has created a new ray of hope across the telecom industry because Dr Shah is an honest and competent official,” said an industry representative. “Tariq Sultan, on the other hand, is also a good choice and this will make a good combination for PTA’s leadership,” he said.
Dr Shah, former member Telecom at the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, is currently working with Qualcomm as a consultant on 3G and 4G technologies. He is conducting technical trainings on 3G and 4G in the United States (US), Thailand and other countries.
Dr Shah completed his doctorate in electrical engineering from University of Pittsburgh, US; supervised six PhD students and has more than 90 publications to his credit. He has been an adjunct faculty member at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Illinois, US.
Dr Shah has also been associated with the Pakistan Engineering Council, IEEE-USA – an organisational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Incorporated – and the Institute of Electronics, Information and Communication Engineers, Japan. He is also associated with Central Asian CDMA Forum as an Executive Director.
Tariq Sultan is currently working as Director General, Revenue Assurance at PTA. He has previously worked with NIB Bank and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce as a Financial Analyst, according to a report by Propakistani – an Islamabad-based blog that covers IT and telecom news. Sultan holds a master’s degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Manchester and an MBA from the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi, according to the reports.
It should be noted that the government hasn’t issued any official notification in this regard while Dr Shah also denied receiving any official communication in this regard.