AJK, NAs Open To Private Telecom Operators
12 April 2006
Islamabad: The government on Wednesday opened the region of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Northern Areas for private telecom operators including cell-phone companies. Previously, the region used to be the exclusive domain of the Special Communication Organization (SCO) of the Pakistan Army while earthquake of October 8 had necessitated private operations immediately. Therefore, since November 2005, the companies were operating in the areas on temporary licenses. Now, the government has allowed the Pakistan Telecom Authority, in principle, to grant telecommunication services licenses to private telecom operators in the AJK and Northern Areas on permanent basis. A meeting under Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs & Northern Areas Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, involving Minister for IT and telecom, Awais Ahmed Khan, Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Maj. Gen.(Retd) Shahzada Alam Malik, and Director General Special Communication Organization, took the decision in this regard. The federal cabinet had already approved permanent permission for the private operators to sell their services in the region. Briefing the participants, Chairman PTA said the telecom regulator of the country has been tasked to define modalities for the grant of licenses to private operators in the AJK and Northern areas. He said the Authority would undertake the process in a period of three months while the parameters for the grant of licenses would be formulated in line with the directives of the Cabinet, the AJK Council and the prevailing regulatory framework in the rest of the country. In a joint press briefing with the Chairman PTA, Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat announced that till the grant of permanent licenses to telecom operators, the government has decided to allow private operators to continue their services in the AJK region. The permission for provision of temporary telecom services in the AJK region will expire tomorrow.