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Senate body sets deadline to settle PTCL sale agreement

Senate body sets deadline to settle PTCL sale agreement

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology on Tuesday gave Etisalat, the Privatisation Commission and the federal government one month to settle the agreement regarding the sale of the Pakistan Telecommunication Company (PTCL).

“PTCL should be nationalised if a settlement cannot be reached,” Committee chairperson Senator Shahi Syed said.

The committee met with a detailed briefing by the Privatisation Commission regarding the sale of PTCL on the agenda. Committee members also asked for updates on the outstanding payment of $800 million from the United Arab Emirates based company, which bought 26pc shares in PTCL in 2005.

Privatisation Commission chairperson Mohammad Zubair said that by 2006, Etisalat made an upfront payment of $1.4 billion against a total bid of $2.6 billion. The balance of $1.2 billion was to be paid in nine biannual instalments between September 2006 and September 2010.

Mr Zubair said Etisalat had paid $400 million of the remaining total, leaving an outstanding balance of $800 million. He said the company has not paid any instalment since July 2007.

He said, under the agreement, the payment of the $1.2 billion balance was subject to the transfer of clean and clear titles of 100pc of properties by January 2008.

The commission explained that of 3,248 properties, 3,212 had been transferred, and another 98 had been transferred in PTCL’s name since June 2013.

“However, Etisalat and the government of Pakistan have reached an understanding that the remaining 33 properties cannot be transferred.

“These properties will be evaluated and their amounts will be deducted from the outstanding $800 million,” Muhammad Zubair explained.

In response to a question, Mr Zubair said the government had no basis to go into arbitration.

He said: “The government of Pakistan is obligated to go by the agreement. Under the agreement, the government is responsible for transferring the properties. Etisalat also made the mistake of not verifying, thinking that the sale of PTCL was a deal between two governments that enjoyed good relations.”

Mr Zubair said that finance minister Ishaq Dar met with high level representatives from Etisalat, followed by a visit from the Etisalat chairperson in September 2015.

The meeting was informed that the sale was investigated by the National Accountability Bureau and the National Assembly Standing Committee on IT. Mr Zubair said no irregularities were found in the agreement following the investigations.

He said the government had finished evaluating the 33 properties, and that Etisalat is in the process of evaluating the same properties.

He said the government has not heard from them yet, despite reminders.

“There are significant differences between assessments done by the government and the valuations done by Etisalat,” he said.

Courtesy : Dawn News



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