Friday, 3 July 2015

Dadyal's MLA in Journalist Cheque Controversy

Accusations have been made against Dadyal’s MLA Afsar Shahid after it was found that he’d given a cheque from public funds to the relative of a local journalist. The recipient of the cheque was to forward the cash to the journalist who is known to report in favour of the MLA. The controversy comes at a time when Dadyal is in a desperate state with many blaming Afsar Shahid, who was elected in 2011, for its lack of progress. Afsar Shahid is also Minister of Zakat for Azad Jammu & Kashmir. The allegation is that the cheque was given to thank the journalist for writing biased articles. However, those who are defending the MLA argue that the accusations are nothing more than political tactics ahead of next year's election.  

It is believed that the cheque came from the Zakat fund as the MLA’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) initially accepted that this was the case when questioned by a group of locals regarding the matter. However, the PRO later changed his stance; denying that the cheque came from the Zakat fund. The people who have made the accusation have uploaded the cheque on social media which clearly has the signature of the MLA. However, supporters of the MLA claim that the cheque is from a separate fund which is allocated to ministers who are then able to distribute it based on their own discretion. For example, such funds can be used to provide financial rewards to sportsmen for excellence.

Nevertheless, it is concerning that an MLA is giving cheques to journalists who are supposed to be reporting fairly rather than giving powerful men a platform to promote themselves. Individuals who are defending the MLA claim that the journalist is from a poor background and is deserving of such financial support. Regardless of which budget the cheque was from, there is clearly a conflict of interest. If the MLA was genuinely helping a ‘journalist in need’, why did he have to write the cheque to a relative of the journalist? Why is it that hundreds of poor people are neglected in AJK but a 'poor journalist' is given a cheque? 

In December 2013, the Express Tribune (article link) reported that hundreds of millions of rupees had gone missing from AJK Zakat funds. Ministers were accused of using such funds for their own medical treatment and to reward their supporters. The latest controversy in Dadyal has led to locals questioning the intent of Afsar Shahid who many believe has failed to live up to expectations. However, it must be noted that he is generally known as a man of good character who is approachable and ready to listen to feedback from his constituents. But we cannot deny that in a country such as Pakistan, Zakat funds rarely get to the poor. The question is where is the money going? 

The poor people of Dadyal continue to struggle in their lives and are deprived of jobs, electricity, adequate medical care and a fair legal system (to name a few of the problems faced). Whilst on the other hand, politicians are living in luxury; attending lavish events and living VIP lifestyles. The issue here is not about one cheque but it’s about the entire system which leads to poor people paying the ultimate price. Recently, in Dadyal, a poor widow died after not being able to cope with the stress and pressures of having to provide for her children after thieves stole the little money that she had. The poor people have little hope and they have no choice but to die suffering – if only Zakat money actually got to them!

Sameer Hussain, Dadyal Online. 


Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Azad Kashmir without 3G and 4G Services

Technology, AJK (June 2015): Citizens over 150 cities of the country have been enjoying 3G and 4G services but on the other hand people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan are still waiting for high-speed wireless broadband services to d├ębut in the hilly stations of AJK and G&B, Propakistani.pk reported. Even after one year of auction in Pakistan, Azad Kashmir is yet to experience 3G and 4G services, and like in various other situations, we don’t have a name to blame for this delay. According to 3G and 4G license terms, operators were allowed to rollout their 3G and 4G networks in whole of Pakistan, except AJK and G&B. Check below section from the licence for your understanding: A License for spectrum awarded in the NGMSA provides exclusive use of the frequencies licensed to that Operator. 

The services permitted are governed by each specific License .The territorial extent of each License is the whole of Pakistan excluding Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB). It merits mentioning here that GSM licenses were also issued on similar patterns where AJK and G&B were excluded from jurisdiction. Telecom operators were offered extension in their GSM licenses — against a flat fee of USD 1 million — in 2005 after massive earthquake in northern areas. Ministry of IT and Telecom, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and Kashmir Council are three bodies that are going to be responsible for allowing operators to offer 3G and 4G services in AJK and G&B. According to a source at PTA, Kashmir Council is yet to respond to a request where regulator had asked AJK government’s consent for allowing operators to start 3G and 4G services.

 After this consent from Kashmir Council, MoIT will issue a policy directive to PTA for arrangement of 3G and 4G networks in AJK and G&B. It is still unclear if 3G and 4G spectrum in AJK will be auctioned through fresh bidding or already operating players will be granted spectrum as per their respective spectrum block sizes against a flat fixed fee. PTA says that such decisions will be based upon policy directive from MoIT; which means a lot of deliberation is yet to take place to get AJK 3G and 4G services. From the looks it appears that AJK and G&B won’t be able to see 3G and 4G networks for a long time, apparently just because there is not much money involved in the auction and there are other things that can give the government and PTA more visibility than enabling AJK and G&B with 3G and 4G networks.

 
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