Pakistan and Etisalat Resume Talks for Pending Payment of $800 Million for PTCL

Pakistan has decided to reinitiate talks with Dubai-based Etisalat at the highest level to resolve the much-awaited $800 million outstanding dues on account of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) privatization.

“We have reinitiated the process to materialize the $800 million outstanding dues on account of PTCL privatization last week and would try to find a middle way for the early solution to the matter. We have also requested Prime Minister Imran Khan in this regard”, said Dr. Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication, while the briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunications (IT&T).

The parliamentary panel met with Rubina Khalid in the chair, on Tuesday, where despite the repeated directives by the parliamentarians, the IT&T Ministry failed to produce the PTCL privatization agreement, saying the matter is concerned to the Privatization Commission.

Senators showed annoyance over the non-production of the agreement while saying it is not the Kahuta agreement that it’s being hidden like this. The Committee decided to ask the Privatization Commission as well as PTCL representatives in the next meeting to brief the body on the matter.


PTA Opposes Further Amendment to PECA 2016 to Block/Remove Unlawful Online Content

The committee also expressed annoyance over Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for the delay in blocking the twitter handle of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, while saying that the latter used abusive language against the national institutions for four days, but no action was taken.

Acting chairman PTA, Mohammad Naveen, informed the committee that twitter was approached to block Rizvi’s twitter account repeatedly, but the response was not fast enough and the social network blocked the account after four days.


PTA and FIA Given One Week to Appoint Focal Person for Coordination

The Committee also took notice of the delay in banning the controversial social media account that contributed to the anarchy situation in the country. The members strongly recommended pre-emptive measures by PTA and FIA to take notice of anti-state and anti-society activities on social media.

Parliamentarians also raised concerns over fake accounts being operated from India and Afghanistan, which is raising serious questions on the rule of law, they added.

The committee also observed lack of coordination PTA and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) which is resulting in increasing the numbers of cyber crimes.

The committee in its last meeting had given a week to PTA and FIA to appoint a focal person for coordination between the two bodies and in case there are any procedural hiccups to come up with an alternate solution to ensure proper implementation mechanism of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016.

The committee expressed anguish over non-compliance of its earlier directions of bringing a proposal to tackle the overlapping jurisdiction of PTA and FIA and PECA, 2016. PTA, as well as Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, was reluctant to host FIA officials while saying that rules needed to be amended.

Director FIA Cyber Wing said that according to section 37 of PECA, monitoring power is with PTA. Further according to section 48, the prevention of electronic crimes is PTA’s job. However, Member Legal IT Ministry said that there is no provision that PTA would become the complainant.

The Minister also said that there is need to amend overlapping rules and make it easier for implementation. The committee unanimously decided to take action, if its recommendations regarding focal persons were not implemented in eight days. The committee also directed the IT Ministry to set with all stakeholders and come up with proposals to amend the PECA.

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