SCO’s request to operate telecom services across the country rejected

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Islamabad: Special Communication Organization (SCO), which manages and operates telecom services in the areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir request of operating commercially throughout Pakistan has been rejected outright on Thursday.

SCO had been demanding a free licence to run its services across the country since last two years, was rejected on the basis that complete freedom to operate and compete against major cellular providers would hamper economic growth and affect the telecom sector on a whole. Millions of dollars of investment would also be put in jeopardy across the telecom sector, said the IT ministry.

SCO operates under the Ministry of Information and Technology (MoIT) and is a public-sector entity which started operations in 1976.

A senate subcommittee on Delegated Legislation had been formed for the purpose of resolving all deadlocks between SCO and IT ministry, which included making changes in the Telecommunication Reorganization Act 1996, which would have allowed the former to expand its outreach and operations across the country.

According to IT ministry’s member telecom, Mudassar Hussain told the parliamentary panel, that the amendments sent by SCO had been rejected outright because it clashed with the laid down policies of the government and violated international standards and other commercial agreements with operators in the industry.

SCO also had requested the government for tax exemption on its income, assets, turnover and sales and customs duties on its imports and exports and all finances be given by them too.

Parliamentary panel was informed by the IT ministry that after consultations with major telecom providers, they had warned any changes made in the Act would be challenged in courts.

The committee was further told that any changes would have violated the governments deregulation policy initiated in 2003.

On the contrary, SCO’s Director Marketing Retired Brig Iftikharul Wahab said that the company would keep on losing business to other competitors unless it wasn’t allowed to operate independently from government control.