The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Information Technology Report 2012 has ranked Pakistan at number 102 out of 144 countries in terms of development and growth of Information Communication Technology. This is reflective of lack of efficiency and poor governance on the part of the government, says the WEF report.
Given the present state of affairs, industry players fear that there is a strong likelihood that the ranking will drop even lower. Sources say that the Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) – the apex government body mandated to promote the IT industry in local and international markets – has delayed everything; from appointing a managing director, to completing development projects.
Sources told The Express Tribune that the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) chairperson for IT and ITES – who is the $2 billion IT industry’s representative on the PSEB board – has consistently been stonewalled by the Ministry of IT (MoIT) whenever he has attempted to communicate with it.
“PSEB became almost non-functional since former MD Zia Imran left,” P@SHA chairman Nadeem Elahi said.
“PSEB composed a two-member HR committee – including a representative from P@SHA – to appoint the new MD,” Elahi said. “They deactivated the committee later on and threw us out. We no longer have visibility of progress on PSEB’s projects,” he added.
The authority’s acting MD Raashid Bashir Mazari is a bureaucrat who looks after PSEB affairs on a part time basis, sources say. This lack of permanent oversight has halted progress on all projects.
For example, sources bemoan the fact that no progress has been made on the much-touted IT Park project. Located on Kori Road in Chak Shahzad, Islamabad, the project land – which PSEB acquired from the Capital Development Authority after spending half a billion rupees between 2006 and 2008 – has now been encroached upon by land-grabbers.
As PSEB dallied with the project, encroachers extended their boundary walls by 10 to 20 feet into the park’s land. “They are testing PSEB. Eventually, when permanent structures will be erected, it will be hard to dislodge them,” a source informed The Express Tribune. “A plan to retrieve the land from land-grabbers and put a boundary wall around it has been stalled,” the source added.
The board had also authorised PSEB’s head to develop a master plan for the site. “This was advertised, firms were shortlisted and presentations were made by firms. But the final selection has been delayed indefinitely,” sources said. “The selection process was complete, but there has been no progress since the acting MD has taken charge of PSEB,” sources added.
Former MD Zia Imran, according to sources, had prepared the feasibility report and convinced the World Bank to loan $20 million for the IT Park. According to that proposal, PSEB would have paid back the loan in 20 years from rental income generated from the Park.
When the Planning Commission called PSEB to present the project in March, the latter wasn’t prepared. The invitation to present meant the project had been cleared by the Planning Commission vetting process, and it was merely a matter of making a good case, sources informed The Express Tribune.
The Commission was told that PSEB would not be pursuing the project immediately, and that it may be considered in a subsequent meeting.
Despite several attempts to communicate with PSEB and the MoIT through email, fax and landlines, no contact could be made. One of the officers The Express Tribune contacted refused to talk; saying that only PSEB Acting MD Mazari can give an official comment in this regard. Mazari would not respond even when contacted on his mobile phone.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2012.