The military-run Special Communication Organization (SCO) on Wednesday clarified that it would neither be able to pay back the $46 million borrowed from the Exim Bank for fiber optic cable, nor monitor the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project if not granted the Long Distance International (LDI) license to operate across the country.
At present, SCO is restricted to operate only in Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJ&K) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and has applied for LDI license to enhance its operations across the country. However, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication is against the grant of LDI license claiming it is against the agreement with Etisalat and fears huge penalty in case the latter goes to the court for arbitration. Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has claimed that codal formalities were not fulfilled for the said license.
The representative of the SCO showed his concerns during the meeting of the Senate sub-committee on Delegated Legislation while saying that delaying tactics are being used in granting the LDI license, resulting in huge loss to the national exchequer. During the last four to five years, revenue of around Rs 4 billion was lost due to delay in license approval, claimed the representative.
He also threatened to go to court if the the LDI license is not granted. He stated that if SCO is entrusted with exclusive rights to operate in AJ&K and GB, then why do Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) and other companies operate there. It is violation by the PTA, he added.
The committee met with Kalsoom Perveen in the chair, due to the absence of convener Muhammad Duad Khan Achakzai, to discuss the issue of SCO’s area of operation in light of opinion by the Attorney General of Pakistan and Ministry of Law and Justice.
Member Enforcement and Director General (DG) Law of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) maintained that SCO is not fulfilling the legal/codal formalities as published in the Information of Memorandum (IM) and hence progress on its application is stalled.
Issues in Interpretation
SCO representative said that on May 29, 2014, a comfort letter was issued by the PTA on SCO’s application for the license then how can it say now that SCO is not fulfilling its legal formalities. If there were any other requirements, PTA must inform SCO and the latter will complete those, but raising questions on the application after such a long time is questionable.
PTA official said that the letter was issued by Director License without the approval of the DG Legal Affairs. He further said that PTA and SCO have different interpretation of the Act; hence PTA will draft its question and send for legal opinion to Law Ministry.
SCO officials maintained that Ministry of Law and Justice and Attorney General of Pakistan have also stated that there is no issue in granting the license. However, PTA objected that Ministry of Law and Justice and Attorney General of Pakistan gave their opinion on another question and not on PTA’s stance.
The convener as well as the PTA officials raised questions that even though SCO admits it is not coming into competition, then what would be the purpose of the LDI license. SCO official said that they are committed not to go for fixed line service.
The chairperson said that the committee has listened and noted the points of all the sides and asked for the availability of Attorney General and Law Ministry to give a final decision on February 9 in this regard.