With the help of armed forces and FATA region parliamentarians, the federal government managed to spread telecommunication infrastructure in tribal areas and near the Afghan border, said Ms. Anusha Rehman, Minister for State for IT and Telecom.
She said that Universal Services Fund (USF) has launched various projects in the FATA along with other underdeveloped areas of the country to promote 2G and 3G services.
Senate Committee on IT was briefed by Anusha Rehman, IT Minister about the use of illegal sims in those areas:
“One of the main reasons for the widespread use of Afghan SIMs in border areas is the absence of the local mobile cellular service.”
The committee assessed the projects launched by USF by categorically listing them and examining their importance.
The meeting also disclosed that it was PPP’s government which restricted the cellular companies from operating in the tribal areas.
Anusha Rehman expressed his concern in front of the committee stating that as long as the local cellular services remain absent in the concerned areas, the Afghan SIMs will continue to remain in existence in Pakistan. She also stated that it will be easier to track down terrorist activities if local cellular service was to be introduced along side border areas.
“Stronger signals from local companies will technically suppress weaker cellular signals spilling over from Afghanistan into Pakistan,” – Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) official
IT Ministry said that now USF money will be used to spread 2G and 3G services in various under-served regions including Zhob, Sibi, Kalat, Khuzdar, Musakhel and Chaghi. Ministry said that mobile phone companies have been authorized to commerce their services in these regions.
Whereas, North and South Waziristan, Orakzai, Dera Bugti and Kohistan are still without cellular services.
Security remains a constant concern for the IT department and the government. “Two Ufone telecom towers have been blown up in Harnai, Balochistan, by tribal leaders because the ministry did not oblige them. The ministry is not in tower giving business and cannot install the Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) according to whims and wishes of influential locals,” said Ms Rehman.
“The ministry has conveyed the significance of establishing telecom infrastructure in these un-served areas to the Fata secretariat as well as the armed forces and is awaiting their response,” she added.
The meeting also disclosed the account balance of USF public accounts, which currently stands at Rs 60 billion. These funds can be utilized by helping the regions which are underdeveloped.
“Since 2013, the government has released more than Rs. 13 billion, out of which over Rs. 11 billion are disbursed for development of telecom infrastructure,” the meeting summarized.
Furthermore, the government is looking to invest Rs 50 billion from the funds for 2018 to provide 2G and 3G services across the country.