Dr. Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, Finance Minister of Punjab, today embarrassed a 27 member delegation of mobile phone companies, including CFOs and Regulatory Heads of all five operators and other high-ups, when she denied meeting the delegation by saying that she will only meet CEOs of the mobile phone companies.
The delegation, which included three foreign CFOs, waited for more than an hour for a meeting that was called by Punjab Finance Minister last week to discuss matters relating to internet taxes in the province.
Punjab Finance Minister had requested CEOs of mobile phone companies for a meeting today (March 8th, 2016), however, telecom operators had communicated in advance that CFOs will attend the meeting since they are more relevant to taxation and finance related issues.
Despite an advanced agreement, Dr. Ayesha said that she won’t see any official other than CEOs and instead of meeting with CFOs and Regulatory Heads, a letter (a copy of which is available with ProPakistani) was handed out to all five operators demanding that CEOs of mobile phone companies must ensure their presence in next meeting on March 22nd, 2016 or they will have to face strict action from the province.
The letter read:
“Kindly note that further non-attendance by the CEOs of the respective companies may result in drawing an adverse inference with respect to the stated purpose of the meeting”.
Interestingly, Dr. Ayesha Ghous is not the first government official who is desperate to meet with CEOs of mobile phone companies. Previously Capt (R) Safdar, Chairman of National Assembly’s standing committee, repeatedly asked CEOs of mobile phone companies to be present in standing committee meetings.
Mr. Safdar in fact became so desperate once that he threatened the committee with resigning from the chair because CEOs were not attending the meetings.
It won’t be out of place to mention that by law only Pakistan Telecommunication Authority can ask the presence of CEOs of mobile phone companies.
When we asked industry experts about their opinion on the matter, they were shocked by the unprofessional behavior by Punjab Finance Minister and said that it is what you expect from egoistic government officials.
“Telecom companies are a federal subject, provincial government can’t do a thing without involving federal government, or PTA to be exact, to deal with telecom companies”, told us an expert who deals with regulatory issues of mobile phone companies.
Overall, it’s an utterly shameful move by Dr. Ayesha and more must be done to curb such behavior from the government.
The telecom sector, as we have stressed again and again, is one that contributes a lot to taxation, brings in massive FDI and invests hundreds of millions of dollars a year into infrastructure. Treating the top brass like this sends out the wrong message and solidifies the impression of an unprofessional government which can only hurt Pakistan.