Former PM, president and IT secretary accused of accepting more than PKR1bn in bribes

16 Dec 2013

ProPakistani writes that Wahaj us Siraj, the CEO of cableco Nayatel, has accused several of Pakistan’s former leaders of accepting bribes to allow the establishment of a single international gateway, known as the International Clearing House (ICH), in late 2012 despite the protests of the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP). In a TV appearance, Siraj claimed that 14 long-distance and international (LDI) operators had pooled together a total of PKR800 million (USD7.39 million) that was then paid to former IT Secretary Farooq Awan as well as PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and president Asif Ali Zardari – both of whom have since left office – in order for the ICH to receive approval from the IT ministry. According to Siraj, in addition to the initial PKR800 million, the trio received bribes of between PKR100 million and PKR150 million per month. The official reason given for creating the ICH was to secure additional revenues for the exchequer by clamping down on the grey market for termination. However, the drastic price hike imposed by operators following the establishment of the ICH led to a decrease in international traffic.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the PTA and Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) endorsed the creation of the ICH in August 2012, against the will of the CCP, which pointed out that such a body violated Pakistan’s antitrust laws. In the months that followed, the ICH was challenged by a series of back-and-forth court cases, culminating in a Supreme Court ruling in late March 2013, which suspended a previous decision by Sindh High Court which claimed that the CCP did not have jurisdiction to intervene in the matter. Subsequently, on 30 April 2013 the CCP annulled the ICH agreement and issued penalties to the 14 companies involved.