Court muzzles watchdog on ICH issue

27 Aug 2014

Local paper The News writes that the Sindh High Court has blocked the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Ministry of IT & Telecom (MoITT) from implementing a notice on the withdrawal of policy directives relating to the international clearing house (ICH). The interim order followed a petition from the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd (PTCL), the main benefactor of the ICH policy – which saw all international traffic directed through a single portal controlled by the incumbent – challenging the decision to cancel the policy. In its petition, PTCL noted that the ICH had been established to better monitor and regulate international traffic for national security purposes and in order to have a stronger position with which to negotiate with foreign carriers. PTCL claimed that the PTA had ignored the benefits of the ICH system and in withdrawing the directive was in violation of the incumbent policy, law and regulations. Under the court’s ruling the MoITT and the PTA were ordered to take no action for implementing the withdrawal of policy directives regarding the ICH until further notice. As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the ICH policy was implemented under suspicious circumstances, the officials responsible having been accused of taking bribes in relation to the exchange. Effectively mandating the cartelisation of the international voice market, the policy immediately came under fire from the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP), although the watchdog proved unable to act against the ICH.