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Event Title: Senator Prince Ahmed Umer Ahmedzai, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Communications presiding over a Meeting of the Committee at Parliament Lodges, Islamabad

Event Date: 2024-01-04

A meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Communications, presided over by Senator Prince Ahmed Umer Ahmedzai, was held today at Parliament Lodges. The meeting commenced with a briefing on the Sialkot- Khariyan Motorway Project by Mr. Arshad Majeed, Chairman of the National Highways Authority (NHA).  Mr. Arshad Majeed explained that the financial close has yet to be declared. He further informed due to partial fulfillment of one of the obligations on the part of GOP/NHA regarding handing over of complete project land has to be finalized. Although GoP/NHA has fulfilled some obligations, like funding the NHA amount within three months, they could not hand over all the land due to a change in the Chenab bridge alignment by the Irrigation department. The Secretary of the Ministry of Communications, Ali Sher Mehsud, added that alignment has been a main impediment to the progress of the project.

On a similar note, while addressing the Kharian-Rawalpindi Motorway Project, Mr. Arshad Majeed provided a comprehensive overview of the correspondence process, starting from the issuance of the Letter of Intent (LOI) to the eventual cancellation of the contract with relevant contractors. He emphasized that there has been no physical or written correspondence from the latter. Moreover, the NHA affirmed NHA's adherence to laws and bidding conditions in the RFP (request for proposal) during procurement. The material deficiency arose from the contractor’s failure to provide written affirmation for its lead role with a 51% construction share, despite ample opportunities and commitments.

The NHA mentioned that the issue was brought to the board for the project's re-tendering, with the bid price to be influenced by market conditions, economic factors, government investment policies, etc. The committee chairman, Senator Prince Ahmed Umer Ahmedzai, advised NHA to oversee the cost and assured them of support in this regard. Likewise, it was stated that the Hyderabad-Sukkur Motorway (M-9) has encountered a similar issue with other contractors' lack of firm commitment, despite granting them a four-month extension upon their request. On December 19, 2023, NHA issued a termination notice to the concerned Concessionaire and is in the process of restructuring it with stakeholders.

Additionally, NHA provided a briefing on the rehabilitation of the Balkasar-Danda Shah Bilawal Section, indicating that, contingent upon the availability of funds, the expected completion date for the project is March 15, 2024. 

During the discussion of Periodic Maintenance Works across all provinces, NHA  delivered a comprehensive analysis. It was informed that approximately 6,835 kilometers of road will be improved upon the completion of all planned maintenance works, expected by June 2024. Furthermore, a total of 178 projects have been completed, with 37 in Sindh, 62 in Punjab, 24 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and 55 in Balochistan.

The committee was given an update on the latest Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives executed by NHA, comparing its base rate with current market rates and inflation. They reported that a draft CSR, based on market rates as of July 01, 2023, has been prepared by the consultant and is currently under scrutiny.

The committee members also discussed the recruitment status of NHA for vacancies advertised in the last six months. NHA  clarified that, due to an interim notice of the election commissions, recruitments were canceled unless approved by the commission or conducted by federal and provincial public service commissions or government organizations where tests/interviews had already taken place before August 15, 2023.

Regarding officers holding multiple posts in the NHA, a list was presented to the committee. Members unanimously agreed not to consider quotas from different provinces unless directed by the chairman of NHA. Additionally, The chairman of the committee, Senator Prince Ahmed Umer Ahmedzai, proposed that NHA should establish training institutes at the regional level with qualified personnel from the same region/province to prevent incompetence.

Furthermore, the Director General of Pakistan Postal Services briefed the committee members on the nationwide establishment of NADRA counters in post offices and the services provided. Similarly, the Secretary of the Ministry of Communications highlighted NADRA's achievement in signing an agreement with Pakistan Post Office Department (PPOD) for CNIC renewal, modification, and delivery through post offices. It was informed that 85 General Post Offices (GPOs) are now active, with NADRA establishing 82 counters in post offices, expecting completion by June 2024. They added that due to system constraints, the issuance of Child Registration Certificates (CRC) is not feasible, but Family Registration Certificates (FRC) are being checked for operational feasibility. They also added that NADRA Pak ID counters are operational in Quetta GPO; however, efforts are underway to make them operational in Khuzdar, Turbat, Loralai, and Sibi. The extension of NADRA counters to all GPOs in Balochistan is targeted for March 2024. The meeting also discussed the restoration of bank facilities in post offices, mentioning the discontinuation of the savings bank due to non-digitalization and the unavailability of the regulator, with ongoing discussions with the Central Directorate of National Savings (CDNS) for its revival. 
 

In conclusion, the committee members expressed optimism about the efforts of the Ministry. Present at the meeting were Senator Muhammad Akram, Senator Umer Farooq, the Secretary of the Ministry of Communications, the Chairman of NHA, the Director General of the Postal Service of Pakistan, and senior officials from the Ministry of Communications.