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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication was informed Friday that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) would soon issue licenses for manufacturing of smartphones in the country.

The committee met under the chairmanship of Rubina Khalid, here, who observed that easy access to smart phones was essential for achieving the agenda of digital Pakistan.

The issues taken up pertained to payment of increase of pensions as per recommendations of the committee's report adopted by the senate in its sitting held on 28 January, 2020, non-availability of internet facility in areas of Daag, Arangi and Battu in Balochistan and propagation and defamation of Parliamentarians with particular reference to Senator Kalsoom Parveen.

Committee members proposed to the PTA to bind mobile companies for providing mobile handsets to general public on installments.

Member PTA said that the authority would provide licenses and companies could manufacture 4G supported phones by themselves.

"PTA will soon launch license for local mobile manufacturing," said the official.

The committee recommended that the PTA should discourage the manufacture of ordinary telephones at the local level.

Rubina Khalid also proposed that the banks should be allowed to provide mobile handsets on installments.

All electronics items including vehicles are available in installments. Not everyone can buy a mobile phone in cash, said Khalid. The committee proposed that the PTA might block mobile handsets if a customer defaulted and did not pay installments.

The chairperson stated that withholding tax was levied on mobile packages. Why do students come into the tax net and ask them for holding tax?, she said, adding that the committee had proposed tax exemption on net packages for students but the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) rejected it.

The committee also discussed the matter pertaining to non-payment of PTCL's retired employees' pension.

Rehman Malik got angry with the Pakistan Telecommunication Trust officials, while saying that elderly pensioners were being humiliated. The committee has been giving instructions for two years, but the PTCL management is silent, said Malik, adding that the report of the sub-committee had been presented in the House.

It is the insult of entire House by not giving pension, said Malik, adding that if the pension was not paid in a week, he would arrest two PTCL officers.

"I have the evidence of how the buildings were rented," said Malik, adding that the Parliament would issue arrest warrants for both the officers.

The committee summoned the board members of the PTCL in its next meeting.

The committee also raised the matter of non-provision of internet facility in erstwhile FATA.

What is the fault of FATA's children, why internet is not being provided there, asked Taj Muhammad Afridi.

Internet was closed in erstwhile FATA after Torkham border incident, said Afridi.

Closing anything is not the solution, said the chairperson, adding that the PUBG should not be banned, but parents should council/guide their children.

The PTA officials said that about 10 km of the border, spillover of signals from towers was happening and it also came with India.

Rehman Malik also raised the matter of social media campaign against Bilawal Bhutto and Bibi. "I was accused of rape," said Malik, adding that he knew who was behind the accuser, Cynthia Ritchie.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020