Telecom companies are facing numerous problems regarding land acquisition, security and internal tribal disputes in Baluchistan, which are causing serious impacts on completion of telecom projects and delivery timelines, it is learned.
In this regard Telenor Pakistan has written a letter to government high ups while Ufone representatives in a parliamentary panel said that they are facing land acquisition issues and situation is hindering their network expansion plans in the province.
According to the Telenor letter, addressed to Chief Executive Officer Universal Service Fund, serious reservations have been expressed on the issue and the government has been informed about the impacts on project completion timelines.
The letter said that Universal Service Fund project for Zhob Lot awarded to Telenor Pakistan (the Lot includes three districts namely Zhob, Karam Sherani and Musakhel) it going to get delayed due to mentioned issues.
It said that government / USF should come forward to help the operator for timely deliveries.
Telenor said that it is consistently following up with relevant authorities and is exploring all open channels but Balochistan Government has provided very limited support to date.
Telenor said that it has already approached the Commissioner and the Secretary IT of the Government of Balochistan, but below are specific issues that it is facing on district levels:
Telenor Pakistan had planned 24 BTS sites in the Musakhel District to provide coverage to 60 Mauzas (both mandatory and optional).
Implementation work on 21 sites (planned to be completed by the end of this year 2016) had started mid of June 2016. All necessary verbal approval/consent from the Deputy Commissioner of Musakhel was secured prior to all the implementation activities. Government Land acquisition issue was put to SMBR that nominated the then DC Musakhel as a collector.
However, recently the newly appointed DC Musakhel (who has been nominated to act as collector SMBR) ordered to stop construction work on all of these 21 sites (14 sites planned on Government land and 7 sites in civil area).
Majority of these sites have been planned on hill tops to provide maximum coverage to the mandatory mauzas. The newly appointed DC Musakhel has passed instructions to relocate sites from hill tops to lower grounds.
Telenor said that shifting of these sites will not only entail complete re-planning of the network in Musakhel, but will also have significant technical as well as financial implications.
Telenor said that it has fulfilled all the legal requirement/formalities involved in leasing land for above mentioned sites and the contracts cannot be altered at this stage which also has legal and financial implications.
Zhob & Karam Sherani
A total of 72 sites were planned in both the districts. Telenor said that it is currently working on 25 sites in both the districts. All the legal requirements/processes were properly covered. There are almost 7 to 11 sites along the Pak Afghan border which are awaiting TSS (Technical site survey) owing to security issues. The case has already been moved to relevant Authorities (Army and FC) for provision of security and clearance.
As the whole area is unsettled, Telenor said that it will need support from the Government for timely resolution of shamlat issues that will enable Telenor to provide telecommunication services in these remote areas.
Telenor requested USF to support Telenor Pakistan on these issues and problems and facilitate in resolving the matter with local bodies at the earliest.
State minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman also raised the issue before the Senate and National Assembly standing committees while saying that some Senators are involved in the crimes who want Towers to be installed on their lands to generate rent/amount for themselves or their friend and families.
She further said that two towers have already been blown, however, telecom operators are not going to surrender.