KARACHI: Federal Secretary Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication Farooq Ahmed Awan will soon take over as chairman of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) after joining the regulator as one of its members – a prerequisite, making him eligible for the chairmanship, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Awan has mailed his joining letter and is now the third member of PTA – an independent government body that regulates the IT and telecom sector, an official close to the matter said on condition of anonymity.
Although it has been communicated to PTA unofficially, the authority is yet to receive an official notification of Awan’s appointment as chairman, the official said.
Two more officials confirmed the development, saying he is likely to take charge in a day or two. According to the Telecommunication Act, an official said, the chairman has to be selected from among three members of the PTA board.
Former chairman Mohammad Yasin completed his four-year term on July 23, but the post has been lying vacant since then. Had the government wanted to appoint any of the remaining members – Khawar Siddique Khokhar, Member Technical and Shabbir Ahmed, Member Finance – as chairman, it would have done it shortly after Yasin’s departure, the official pointed out.
Moreover, the member finance had his last working day on Tuesday, thus he could not become the chairman anyway.
According to another official, Syed Nasrul Karim Ghaznavi, former member finance who was suspended after an inquiry, had also expressed interest in the chairmanship.
Ghaznavi recently met Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and was reinstated. He would replace Ahmed. However, Ghaznavi has already been informed that Awan would be the new chairman, the official said.
The officials, Tribune spoke to, are connecting the appointment of Awan and reinstatement of Ghaznavi to the much-awaited auction of 3G spectrum licences, which are expected to fetch the government between $900 million and $1 billion.
The prime minister has already instructed PTA to advertise for hiring a consultancy firm to facilitate the auction. He is now appointing his trusted men to finish the job, that is why Awan has been downgraded from the post of federal secretary to the PTA member, an official said, adding Ghaznavi’s reinstatement is also part of that process.
Interestingly, Awan’s joining report didn’t mention whether he was appointed as member technical or member finance. For the first time in the PTA’s history, a member has been appointed without portfolio, the official said.
Awan has background in finance, so technically he should have been appointed member finance, the official suggested. However, given Shabbir Ahmed was already serving as member finance while Ghaznavi, too, was reinstated as one, Awan could not be member finance. The Act allows a maximum of two members with finance background while the third one has to have technical background.
However, with the departure of Ahmed, both Awan and Ghaznavi could become member finance, the official pointed out.
The Express Tribune tried to contact Awan for confirmation, but he didn’t respond to the queries sent to him via email nor did he answer calls on his cellphone.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2012.