PTA leadership battle nears end

25 Sep 2013

Pakistan’s government is prepared to appoint three officials to the vacant positions at the head of the nation’s telecom regulator, despite potential opposition from the courts, ProPakistani writes, citing sources familiar with the matter. The positions of chairman, member technical and member financial have been left vacant for more than six months leaving the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) incapable of functioning properly. Former chairman Farooq Awan was removed from the post in January this year, after he was deemed ineligible for the position, whilst members financial and technical retired the following month.

On 14 June this year the government began advertising for three positions – a new role, member compliance, was added with the caveat that a chairman would be selected from amongst the three officials – but an order from Lahore High Court instructed the state to remove the advert, as its terms deviated from the required qualifications and experience set down by the current rules for PTA appointments. Nevertheless, the government has shortlisted and interviewed candidates based on the revoked 14 June advertisement. The government has received strong criticism for interfering too heavily in the running of the regulator and has been accused of twisting or ignoring the rules in order to appoint preferred candidates. Despite his removal in January, the government attempted to place Awan back into the PTA as member financial in March this year only to be blocked by the courts later that month. Similarly, another former PTA official, appointed by Awan, was later dismissed for failing to hold the basic qualifications required for the role.

The upcoming appointments to the vacant positions are expected to face further legal challenges, as the alteration to the PTA’s leadership – the increase of members from two to three – was not led by an amendment to the Telecom Act.