In a significant development, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has officially concluded its inquiry into the former chairman of the Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA), Dr. Syed Ismail Shah, and other high-ranking PTA officials. Media reports indicate that NAB has issued a formal letter to the PTA, officially closing the investigation related to the allocation of Next Generation Mobile Service (NGMS) to the local telecom company Warid.
The closure of the investigation by NAB has been welcomed by the telecom community, highlighting that the investigation was rooted in malicious intentions. PTA had, in fact, permitted Warid, in accordance with its license, to initiate 4G services within its spectrum. The process adhered to regulatory norms, emphasizing technology neutrality rather than the issuance of a new license or spectrum allocation. The prolonged investigations have been identified as a key factor contributing to the decline in investments in the telecom sector in recent years, and some experts attribute the delay in 5G deployment in Pakistan to these investigations.
The investigation, initiated in October 2018, involved figures such as Anusha Rahman, former Minister for Information Technology (IT), Ishaq Dar, former Finance Minister, and PTA Chairman Syed Ismail Shah, among other senior PTA management.
The predicament of competent individuals facing legal trials is a recurrent issue in Pakistan. Dr. Ismail Shah, a highly respected telecom professional, has a distinguished reputation across Asia for his extensive knowledge of mobile and internet technologies. His accomplishments include leading spectrum auctions, launching 3G/4G services, and driving significant growth in a highly competitive and price-sensitive market. Despite his contributions being acknowledged internationally, the powerful often attempt to tarnish the reputation of such individuals for their vested interests.
Prospects for the IT & Telecom Industry:
The conclusion of the NAB investigation against Dr. Ismail Shah and other PTA officials is anticipated to bring positive developments to Pakistan’s ICT industry. The removal of this legal hurdle is expected to encourage increased investments, fostering growth and innovation within the sector.
The resolution of the investigation could potentially pave the way for crucial decisions regarding the introduction of 5G technology, instilling confidence in both the regulator and industry stakeholders. This development may lead to a renewed sense of optimism within the industry, contributing positively to the nation’s technological advancement.