Security Threats Haunt USF Service Delivery in Ex-FATA & Balochistan

The Universal Service Fund (USF) is facing security issues in some areas of erstwhile FATA and Balochistan in laying fibre cable and installing mobile phone towers, hindering its efforts to improve telecom and internet services in these areas.

This was revealed by USF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Haris Mehmood Chaudhry while briefing the sub-committee of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication.

The committee meeting was chaired by Syed Mehmood Shah to discuss and suggest measures for the provision/improvement of telecommunication services in the country, especially in Balochistan, erstwhile FATA, tourist destination and motorways. The committee also discussed the mobile phone and internet services in remote areas of the country under the Universal Service Fund (USF).

Member National Assembly from Tharparkar Ramesh Kumar informed the committee about his concerns regarding mobile phone and internet service in the area.

The USF CEO briefed the committee on ongoing USF projects in Tharparkar and assured that the issues of mobile phone and internet service in Tharparkar would be resolved.

He informed the committee that USF is working in all districts of Balochistan and completed work on 1800 km highway in the province. USF is taking steps on a priority basis for mobile phone and internet services in Balochistan, he added.

Chaudhry further said that USF has laid 6,000 km of fibre cable in Balochistan. In an area with a population of 100,000, USF is increasing coverage to 80 percent instead of 60 percent, he added.

He further said that 314 km of fibre cable is being laid in Gwadar. USF is re-surveying in Qalat and other areas where there are coverage issues.

Fibre cable for mobile phone and internet services are being laid in eight tehsils in the erstwhile FATA, work has been completed in four tehsils and is in progress in four, USF CEO added.

The USF is working in 23 districts of Sindh and is working in all districts of Punjab because there are very few problems in Punjab, he added.

The committee summoned the provincial chief secretaries to its next meeting to address the issues being faced by USF. The committee has also summoned senior officials of USF Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir for its next meeting.

The USF CEO assured the committee of full support to improve mobile phone and internet service across the country.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) officials briefed the committee regarding measures taken to prevent fake SIMs. The crime rate in Pakistan is higher than in other countries, the committee observed.

The committee recommended that PTA needs to take special measures to curb the use of fake SIMs to curb crime.

The committee also asked PTA officials if the installation of mobile phone towers has any adverse effects on human health. PTA officials informed the committee that mobile phone towers have no harmful health effects on human health.