The meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication, was held on Friday at Parliament House. The issues taken up pertained to payment of increase of pensions as per recommendations of the Committee’s report adopted by the Senate in its sitting held on 28 January, 2020, non-availability of internet facility in areas of Daag, Arangi and Battu in Balochistan and propagation and defamation of Parliamentarians with particular reference to Senator Kalsoom Parveen.
Chaired by Senator Rubina Khalid, the members present included Leader of the House Senator Dr. Shehzad Waseem, Senator Abdul Rehman Malik, Senator Taj Muhammad Afridi, Senator Engr. Rukhsana Zuberi, Senator Kalsoom Parveen, Senator Dr. Jahanzeb Jamaldini and senior officers from Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications, PTA, PTET and FIA.
The meeting commenced with the Point of Public Importance raised by Senator Dr. Jehanzeb Jamaldini regarding non-availability of Internet facility in Daag, Arangi and Battu, Balochistan province. At the very outset, the Chairperson stressed the need of connectivity of people especially the people living in far flung areas. Member PTA and D.G (Licensing) PTA briefed the Committee that the coverage of Ufone and Zong is available in the areas under question. However, they were of the view that due to the International restriction of installation of towers beyond 10 km from the Border to avoid the signal spill over, there are some coverage issues in the border areas. D.G (Licensing) PTA informed the Committee that the issue has been taken up with the GHQ as well and an agreement has been made that towers can be installed beyond 3 km from Border.
MD, USF informed the Committee that lot for the areas under discussion has been auctioned which will be submitted on 12th October, 2020 and then the issue will be resolved. He further stated that if the restriction of 10 km is relaxed then the coverage will further enhance.
Chairperson directed that PTA and USF shall send their representatives to have a meeting with Senator Dr. Jahanzeb Jamaldini in order to have actual survey of the area to resolve the actual issue. MD, USF and Member PTA agreed that they will coordinate with the Senator and send their representatives to have a meeting with the Senator.
Senator Dr. Jahanzeb Jamaldini requested the Chairperson that the matter may not be disposed of till its final solution. The Committee agreed to carry forward the agenda item till its resolution.
Taking up the issue of payment of increase of pensions to PTCL employees, the Committee was informed that the decision of the Board will be implemented. While taking stong note of the negative attitude of Board of PTET, the Chairperson directed PTET to provide the Minutes of the meetings of the Board of PTET on the issue of pension of PTCL employees. PTET was directed hold back the Notification issued for increase in pension of PTCL employees till the payment of arrears to the pensioners. Ministry of IT & Telecom was directed to suggest amendments in the Act to provide for casting vote of the Chairman of the Board. Committee directed that all the Board Members may be called to attend the next meeting. Further consideration of the agenda item was deferred.
On the issue of propagation on Facebook against Senator Kalsoom Parveen, Additional Director, FIA Cyber Crimes Wing informed the Committee that next date of hearing in the case is 14th September, 2020 in the court of Magistrate. The Investigation will be finalized once the permission to investigate the accused is received from the Court.
Senator Kalsoom Parveen informed the Committee that she has been victimized due to the grudge that as Convener of sub-committee she had investigated and reported back to the House the corruption in the Swan Garden Housing Society. The father of the person who is leveling allegations against her was the Secretary of the Society. They had offered her illegal gratification which she refused, therefore, he being a so-called journalist is propagating false allegations against her.
As any other item, Senator Dr. Shahzad Waseem pointed out the need of provision of 4G enabled hand sets and tablets to the students at affordable rates. He proposed that the PTA being the regulator should guarantee the Telcos and the Banks to provide such devices on easy instalments.
The Chairperson was of the view that there is no need to involve new manufacturers or dealers in this business but in fact the already working service providers may be asked to provide the latest handsets and tablets along with affordable packages to the students on the guarantee of PTA that PTA will ban the CNIC of defaulters and will make sure that no service can be availed on the blocked CNIC.
Member PTA assured that PTA will take up this issue on urgent basis and will regulate the same.
The Chairperson pointed out the deduction of withholding tax on mobile cards even from the persons who do not come within the tax net. She was of the view that this issue needs to be looked into. Additional Secretary, M/O IT & Telecom informed the Committee that this issue was taken up by the Ministry with FBR but the FBR refused to do the same.