The meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication was held on Thursday at Parliament House. The issues taken up pertained to non-implementation of Special Report of the Standing Committee payment of increase in pension to retired employees of PTCL, National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes (NR3C) briefing on progress of the matter of defamation of Senator Taj Muhammad Afridi, ban on online games and briefings on Universal Service Fund and National ICT R&D Fund.
Chaired by Senator Rubina Khalid, the members present included Senator Engr. Rukhsana Zuberi, Senator Sana Jamali, Senator Taj Muhammad Afridi, Senator Fida Muhammad, Senator Faisal Javed, Senator Muhammad Abdul Rehman Malik, Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh and senior officers from Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications, PTA, PTCL, Universal Service Fund (USF), Ignite, and FIA.
The meeting commenced with discussion on the payment of increase in pension to retired employees of PTCL. The Committee was informed that the matter had already been examined and the same has been forwarded to the concerned quarter for resolution of the issue. The displeasure of the Committee has also been forwarded to Pakistan Telecommunication Employees Trust (PTET) with the direction to avoid any untoward consequences and resolve the issue without further loss of time. PTET has also been directed to come up with a self-contained presentation for delivering of the same before the august Committee. Members of the Committee took strong notice of the fact that despite numerous meetings and directions from the Standing Committee and the ruling of Supreme Court; the implementation of the direction was unnecessarily delayed. The issue has been lying in the lurch since one decade, asserted the Committee that all recommendations may be implemented immediately in letter and spirit. It was stressed that FIA must investigate the matter. Taking up the matter of sub-letting of Ufone Tower and other regularities; the Committee asserted that all details must be provided to the Committee. Chairperson Committee, Senator Rubina Khalid directed that immediate implementation of recommendations of the Committee must be conducted or else the Committee will exercise magisterial powers provided under the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012. All members of the PTET Board were summoned in the next meeting scheduled to be held on 9th February, 2021 as well.
Discussing the progress on investigation of defamation of Senator Taj Muhammad Afridi
National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes (NR3C) the Committee asserted that immediate action must be taken against the perpetrators and those details must be submitted to the Committee. FIA Cyber Crime Wing informed the Committee that it can conduct arrests once digital evidence is obtained.
Regarding a ban on certain online games such as Cyber Punk, Puff Games, Dragon Ball etc. causing serious affects on children’s health after 8:00 pm the Committee was informed that a blanket ban was not recommended since that would prove detrimental to our technology industry as well as depriving youth from modern indoor sporting activity. PTA will continue to analyse any complaint highlighting specific illegality associated with any e-game and shall process the same for removal/blocking as and when received.
Deliberating over the issue of non-availability of 3G and 4G services in erstwhile FATA, the Committee was informed that PTA was waiting for directions from the Government regarding this issue and would comply immediately.
Being briefed regarding the USF’s performance in the past three years; Chairperson Committee, Senator Rubina Khalid lauded the efforts of the organization and said that as networking increases in far flung areas of Pakistan due to the efforts of the Organization; USF must formulate policy and regulation to ensure that the service is used in a purposeful manner.
Deliberating over the performance of National ICT R&D Fund the Committee was informed about its core activities, grants and impact. Chairperson Committee while appreciating the efforts of the organization stressed the need for more to be done in terms of price regulation of devices, to increase accessibility. The Organization was directed to share revenue details along with the future roadmap proposals with the Committee.