THE RECENT proposal to establish the International Clearing House (ICH) and fixation of termination rates on incoming overseas calls to Pakistan, now applicable from October 1 despite a strict warning by the super regulator Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP), has now forced the overseas Pakistanis to pay about $150 million a month on international calls back home but also speaks about the shallow approach of the relevant authorities towards handling the stakeholders (overseas Pakistanis) who have a major chunk in the over $12 billion annual remittances. Of course, this development, which has obviously entails a weaker argument on the part of the telecom sector watchdog, has multiplied the grave concerns of the overseas Pakistanis. According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, which has floated the ICH establishment, is of the view that the initiative has been taken to stem the increased volume of grey telephony activities in the country. It also opines that ICH will streamline all incoming international traffic through a centralised gateway through which all LDI operators will share the revenues for international incoming traffic based on their current market share with fixed termination charges. However, the figures tell the other side of the story as the grey telephony is regularly inflicting heavy revenue losses to the national kitty. The comparatively low telephony tariffs applicable in the neighbouring states are equally enough to give strength to the doubts about the seriousness of the PTA and the MoITT towards not only looking after the interests of overseas Pakistanis but also increasing the volume of international trade activities with the country. The cash-strapped government of Pakistan is already experiencing a troubled position in terms of world trade operations, it cannot afford taking wrong decisions that could further nosedive the volume of its trade with the world at large. Telecom sector experts are of the strong opinion that this initiative would encourage monopoly of single operator and will also increase grey traffic, but PTA looks to have put ice on this potent argument. The new call charges have an accumulative effect of Rs 10-12 per minute increase from the earlier Rs 10-10.5, average 1.5 billion minutes call traffic is per month from overseas. It will simply add burden for those who are already living abroad from their families and parents. This attempt, by all means, is against the consumer protection, which constitutes the pivotal part of any telecom sector across the world minus Pakistan, as consumers are the only determinants of products and companies. Happy consumer means longer product life and company as well. The authorities should hold sense and take rational decisions which would ensure overseas Pakistanis sustained confidence in the government.

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