Jamal ShahidSeptember 27, 2018
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Wednesday informed the Senate standing committee on information technology and telecommunication that three districts of Balochistan — Kalat, Awaran and Kech — had been facing suspension of telecom services for the past one and a half years ago due to security concerns.
“Telecom services were suspended in February 2017 in seven districts of Balochistan after the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) cited security reasons. While services were restored in four districts of the province, there is still no connectivity in the remaining three districts of the province,” acting chairman of the PTA Mohammad Naveed told the Senate standing committee.
The senior official was responding to a question raised by National Party (NP) Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmed Mohammad Shahi over the closure of telecom services in several parts of Kalat district for the past one and a half years.
According to the PTA official, the IT ministry had issued a policy directive regarding the “closure of telecom services due to national security concerns” in 2009. Besides Kalat districts, services were suspended in Chaman, Awaran, Pishin, Kharan, Dalbandin and Kech districts.
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Services suspended for one and a half years due to national security concerns, Senate body told
“People in Kalat, Awaran and Kech are still without data services,” said Mr Naveed.
“Perhaps there is a need to remind security agencies that telecom services in these areas are still suspended and these should be turned on,” said PPP Senator Rubina Khalid, chairperson of the standing committee.
Ms Khalid directed the PTA chairman to ask the ISI for a time frame for the restoration of the telecom services.
Responding to another question on complaints regarding non-availability of cellphone services in various parts of Balochistan, the CEO of Universal Service Fund (USF), Rizwan Mir, told the Senate committee that the largest funding had been allocated for Balochistan. “The USF is in a continuous process of identification of un-served areas and it would request the committee to identify locations that are still devoid of coverage. Uncovered areas can be included in USF’s future projects,” he said.
According to the official, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Balochistan continued to be priority areas for cellphone connectivity. However, USF chief technical officer Syed Asif Kamal drew the Senate committee’s attention towards security concerns in certain areas where the USF and telecom operators are prohibited to work.
“The USF needs clearance from security agencies to operate in North Waziristan and South Waziristan before projects can be launched. Khuzdar and Awaran continue to be troublesome areas where the connectivity is still needed,” Mr Kamal said.
He also informed the committee about a telecom site that had been destroyed last year and where the USF had been facing problems for the past couple of years.
The chairperson of the Senate committee constituted a subcommittee to take up with the ISI the matter of suspension of telecom services in the three districts of Balochistan.
The subcommittee has also been tasked to help the USF identify areas in Balochistan which were without telecom services.
Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2018