Democracy’s Revenge from IT and Telecom Sector

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This article has input from Salman Ansari

Dictatorship is attributed as a flawed system, and rightly so, as authority for making a range of decisions can’t work best when given to one single person.

With the emergence of democracy in Pakistan in 2008, like every other department, Telecom and IT sector had high hopes. Though the sector had flourished during the previous 4/5 years, yet it was aiming for further heights in uplifting country’s economy and to enhance the living standards of a common person.

The journey started with a complete blackout or what we call total negligence towards IT and Telecom. Probably due to bizarre reasons or perhaps government was unwise and daring enough to deliberately ignore the sector that had fetched highest foreign direct investment in the country.

Not very surprisingly, keeping in mind the deeds and directions that government that it had adopted 2 years ago, very vibrant IT and Telecom sector has reached to a (coming soon) state of possible uncertainty.

Internationally acclaimed growth of 40-60% in the mobile sector has incredibly gone to -2% all within this ‘initial’ revenge period of two years. Information Technology became irrelevant and feasible for a few heads only. Of course the illegal money area (e.g. illegal voice termination) made a lot of people very, very very rich.

Then out of nowhere, appointment of Mr. Khosa’s appointment as the virtual Minister of IT amazed the telecom minds and investors. While rewarding a loyalist, government probably forgot that the person has zero knowledge of IT and Telecom, and above this, he is not even a politician representing the people of this country (neither an MNA nor a Senator).

IT and Telecom, that was at notable distance from known and conventional government customs, is now pulled into a circus where brilliance is compared with favoritism.

With-in three months, Mr. Khosa has achieved the established milestone of Pakistani politicians, that is, allegations and questions over his inability for the job he is doing.

He has reportedly sacked Secretary and MD ICT R&D fund, Secretary and MD USF, Member Telecom, Head of EGD, Secretary to the Board of Directors and various other key position holders.

Shout out of sources in the industry reveal that Mr. Khosa wants his friends and family on these very crucial positions.

Allegedly, minister is inserting pressure on HRGC of ICT and R&D fund to employ his brother in law as CEO of the fund, who holds a fake degree from some Canadian university that does not exist at all, according to HEC.

On same grounds, minister is in clash to slash down CEO of USF, which has proved to be the best operating USF in the world and is being used as a benchmark by other countries (incidentally it is the best operating part of the Ministry).

There is no doubt that Minister is following the rules and making all these changes in accordance to the law, but one may argue, why would he not renew the contracts of those who have done brilliant jobs in their respective departments?

Beyond this, why is he pressurizing the board members of these organizations to insert his friend and family members?
Apparently there is one reason: These institutions are enormously funded, for instance, inflows for USF only are over Rs. 25 billion a year.

Expected turmoil can only be avoided if the government comes back into sense and decide the fate of this country on merit – not on personal preferences.

Tech and telecom reporter for over 15 years

  • And still, studies suggest that Pakistan is an easy country to do business in!

    But unfortunately, Statistical examinations may claim that Pakistan is a faster place to “Do Business” in, but perceptions trump empirical data any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

  • nice to see someone having the courage of speaking the truth about these corrupt and mindless morons.

    now lets just hope our beloved ministers dont get the link to your article blocked as well.:)

  • Cannot believe on above as the article is written by a former adviser to Ex-Minister of IT. :-)

  • No wonder why the Anti-money laundering bill is not being passed.

    They have zero preference for IT industry, while India vehemently supports their IT industry.

    I wrote this in another comment, but it merits mentioning again:

    India has both Paypal and Payoneer available to them (which are both the biggest/effective methods of sending and receiving payments online), while we have none of them (Payoneer was available, but not anymore).

    Freelancers in Pakistan have been waiting since MANY YEARS for Paypal to offer its services in Pakistan, but due to State Bank and our Government’s indifference/careless attitude, it is not given any importance.

    On 4th May, users (freelancers in Pakistan providing services to foreign buyers) of Payoneer Debit Master Card received an email notifying that due to a change in requirements from their regulators, as of June 1, 2010 Payoneer cards will be blocked for transactions in the countries listed by the US government as having strategic Anti Money Laundering (AML) deficiencies.

    This card was used by freelancers all over Pakistan to receive payments for the services they provide in various freelancing websites.

    According to an article by Methtab Haider from The News, the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Ordinance lapsed on March 26, 2010 as the bill was not passed by the upper house of parliament, which was prorogued recently, shattering all hopes that Islamabad would come out of the list of countries vulnerable to money laundering.

    Asia Pacific Group on Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had given Pakistan February 2010 as deadline for formal conversion of the ordinance into the Act of Parliament.

    Now, the FATF is scheduled to meet at Amsterdam in June 2010, and the passage of the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorist Financing Act from parliament before that could help Pakistan improve its international ranking.

    Why is this bill still not passed? Every freelancer will face difficulties in receiving payments after June 1, 2010 if the bill is not passed, as this was the most efficient way of receiving payments.

    The upper house of parliament should pass this bill before June 1, as the National Assembly had already passed the AML bill but the bill could not be passed from the Senate.

    The Government should also look into the matter of Paypal, as it has shown interest in Pakistan, but due to some State Bank/Government rules and regulations, it is still unable to enter Pakistan.

  • democrazy is the worst system ever created,

    dictatorship is the only system that can save pakistan, it turned china the worlds poorest country into the worlds now richest country and superpower soon, dictatorship turned a small corupt thug country of singapore into the very rich and vibrant city of singapore today.

    we need a dictator for a good 50 years in pakistan.

    • Yes, I agree .. and most Pakistanis would agree. But dictatorship is not a simple answer. See also the example of North and South Korea, both were (and North Korea still is) dictatorships but the difference in technology between North and South can be almost measured in light-years!

  • Although the current Govt. does not have done any significant work on forming IT policy and reviving the I.T infrastructure. Even there has been no work Done on forming ICT policy. but still i feel that Mr. Salman ansari who used to be also one man show and has more flashy attitude than any body who has done some thing concrete. so I couldn’t care less on his thoughts.

  • Dear Mr. Ansari,

    While I would be a fool to defend this govt and how it has contributed to ruin the telecom sector I must differ with you on various counts.

    Let’s talk about the seeds that dictatorship sowed. It was the all powerful General Shahzada who had appointed the rubberstamps as his members of PTA and one of them is now the chairman.

    Mr. Mushtaq Bhatti was also brought in during the days of dictatorship.

    This is the trouble with dictatorship in Pakistan it doesn’t provide you with sustainable model for goverenance in institutions.

    The bubble in telecom had to burst and more illegal money through grey was made during the dictatorship.

    It is not mr khosa who has stalled the growth in telecoms it is the idiots that were hired by in secure individuals who have now vanished and the country has to suffer in the hands of Members of PTA and MoIT.

    The first step in telecom reuired courage and the steps that now need to be taken require insight and vision. The previous leadership under baqai sb and general shahzada lacked it and it would have been a bigger disaster if a story teller lobbyist like yourself would have been incharge.

    We need enlightened people who can listen to different stakeholders and steer the ship knowing the pitfalls and strengths of their decisions.

    This comes with institutions and continuity and dictatorship in Pakistan has always lacked that.

  • I fully agree with novice.The people in ministry and PTA have been running the show during last two years and they are equally responsible for slow growth.
    Dictatorship suits Mr Ansari.He has also enjoyed it during that period.Why to blame democracy for all the ills.At least people like Mr Ansari,who are always taking leads from developed countries,must keep in mind the systems such countries have in place and which has resulted in progress and development.

  • Meeting proceedings of senate standing committee on IT Meeting, held on 25th May 2010

    The account is not in exact sequence and is also not full and complete. However it attempts to capture most of what occurred during discussions on Agenda Item regarding USF.

    After the first three items of the agenda were discussed the item “Briefing by USF Company on its program for promoting Telecommunication, Broadband, Fiber Optics and other services in under-served and un-served areas of the country”, came up for discussion. The presentation was put up on the screen. Following occurred next;

    • Senator Muhammad Zahid Khan asked who was the CEO of USF and Mr. Parvez Iftikhar introduced himself as CEO USF and tried to start his presentation.

    • Senator Syed Faisal Raza Abidi asked the CEO why he was presenting when his contract had expired? And how come he was still serving as CEO USF? CEO politely replied that firstly under Companies Ordinance 1984 till the appointment of new CEO, he has to continue. Secondly, he explained, during the last Board Meeting on 31st March 2010 it was decided by the Board that he should continue till the Board finally decides.

    • At this the Advisor to PM on IT Mr. Sardar Muhammad Latif Khan Khosa spoke up that the matter was put before the Board but he declined to discuss it. He said that he instructed the Secretary IT to advertise the post but it was returned with the remarks that the post cannot be advertised without permission of the Board. He said that he then asked the company secretary but the company secretary sent it to the Board members for their views. The Advisor stated that this was a clear violation of his instructions and the CEO is continuing and enjoying all the perks despite that.

    • Senator Abidi then shouted in an insulting tone that the contract of “this person” (CEO USF) had expired and he was getting 18 lacs as salary (in reality it is much less) and has signed over Rs. 20 Billion worth of projects (the correct figure is Rs. 15 Billion). He then said that after clear instructions of the Minister In-charge to advertise the post how come he is still working as CEO of USF and how can the company secretary refuse the instruction of the Minister Incharge?

    • Mr. Hassan Shiko Company Secretary USF requested to be given a chance to explain the matter. He started saying that USF is formed under Companies Ordinance 1984, Section 42 and registered with SECP with an independent Board of Directors which is equally represented by the government and private sector. Under companies ordinance section 199(3) the existing CEO whose tenure is completed has to continue to perform his duties till either he is reappointed or a new CEO comes in. He was explaining that regarding the advertisement also he needed a Board decision which he was trying to seek.

    • But Advisor on IT interrupted Mr. Shiko and said that he does not agree to the existing Board as some Board members are enjoying huge contracts from USF and his instructions were violated by not only the Company Secretary but also by the Secretary IT.

    • At this stage Senator Abidi hit the desk hard with his hand and shouted that a strict action should be taken and the Chairman USF Board should suspend the company secretary with immediate effect. On this the Advisor IT also angrily said that he suspends the company secretary there and then.

    • Secretary IT tried to calm the Advisor down by calling him his elder brother and assuring him that he had great regard for him. He started to clarify that this matter has been lingering on for a few weeks now where the Advisor’s instructions do not appear to be fully in line with the rules and therefore he has also apprised the PM on this. While he was still trying to put across his point-of-view in a very calm and controlled manner, the Advisor started debate regarding the rules under which the matter is referred to the PM.

    • The Advisor accused in a raised voice that people in the Ministry have made a gang under Secretary IT. He said that in this Ministry he (the Advisor) feels just like a clerk as his instructions were not being followed.

    • Senator Abidi very angrily added as to how could this be happening when the Minister is himself the Federal Government, while the secretary is a secretary to the Government. He again pointed at CEO USF and asked how this person (CEO USF) is still sitting as CEO, why was the CEO position not advertised?

    • Senator Moula Baksh Chandio and Senator Zahid Khan at this stage requested the committee members to also listen to what CEO USF and the Secretary were trying to say and that they should also be given a chance to speak.

    • CEO USF pleaded that he may be given a chance to make the presentation as per the meeting agenda to inform the senators as to what USF was doing. Senator Chandio agreed with him and asked the CEO to proceed but as soon as CEO USF started he was once again stopped by Senator Abidi that no this person is not allowed to give a presentation as his contract had expired on 30th April 2010. The senator said that the CEO had no “notification” that he could continue. The Agenda item itself was therefore not even touched during the meeting.

    • Secretary IT tried to explain that under company rules, there is an HR Committee of USF Board, which has to take a decision and then the Board meeting decides as per recommendations of HRGC. During the last Board meeting held on 31st March 2010, the case of CEO USF was brought up for discussion and it was recommended by all the Board members to the chairman that the existing CEO is the most suitable person to continue and his contract should be renewed.

    • The Minister Incharge cut the Secretary IT’s explanation and angrily denied and said that he declined to discuss this in the Board meeting as this was not an agenda item. The company secretary tried to explain that although the minister declined but the chairman and members allowed the CEO to continue, but he was again shouted down by Senator Abidi who addressed the Chairman and angrily shouted that they, as members of this committee, should decide that the Company Secretary of USF should be suspended and an advertisement for the position of CEO USF should be given, otherwise he would resign from the standing committee.

    • Chairman of the committee Senator Safi suggested that an Enquiry Committee should be created to find out the exact situation. The members agreed to this and a sub committee comprising of three members, Senator Saleem Saifullah Khan, Senator Muhammad Zahid Khan and Senator Maula Baksh Chandio, was suggested and seconded by rest of the members. But at this stage Senator Abidi intervened and recommended himself to be included in the enquiry committee saying that he would personally investigate the matter.

    All this time the tone and manner of Senator Abidi and Advisor IT was very loud and very insulting especially towards Secretary IT, CEO USF and Company Secretary of USF. In between there were several derogatory remarks made against the burocracy in general.

    At one stage Senator Abidi said that he would personally go to the Ministry and beat the people with shoes.

    The three persons who were being targeted were not allowed to speak. Whenever upon asking by other senators that the three should also be heard, they started to say something they were angrily shouted down by Senator Abidi and Advisor IT. They were also not interested in the working of USF which was the actual agenda item.

    At several stages senators like chairman senator Safi, senator Saifullah Khan, senator Zahid Khan and others tried to put some sanity into the proceedings but Senator Abidi and Advisor IT did not let that happen.

  • I totally agree with Mr.Ansari, I work in an I.T company (ISB), obviously the name i wont be mentioning,
    here we got a call 2 days ago, from our CEO about Mr.Khosa that he wanted his niece to be urgently hired in the company!!
    and she wasnt upto our required qualifications, yet we took her interview, BY FORCE, from the so called high officials!!!

  • Our MNAs have no understanding of what their role is on such matters. We do not have a tradition either of such interactio of standing committee meetings with govt depts.

    Previous Chairman PTA hardly attended any such meeting and no body could do anything about it. Now that departments have started coming to such meetings the public representative from all political parties have lost their mind and act as if they are not public representatives but lords who could say anything and demand anything as their birth right.

    I have personally been to such meetings and have noted that the proceedings are driven by big egos of these public reps who demand of things that even the govt cant ask for. The hidden agenda is to get personal favours from these departments so the harsher one gets the more benefits he is likely to accrue.

    This also proves the point why it is important to have job security in public organizations as these Federal Secretaries generally give the public reps tough time because they are well versed with the law and the procedures whereas the public reps are intxicated by the mere fact that they represent people and do not care about the state structure and their role.

    Once the lines are well understood we would see these proceedings become more insightful and less spicier for media.

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