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Khosa Clash, Abidi insult, shout at IT executives

Senior Journalist Ansar Abbasi today reported the details of a clash between Adviser to the PM on Information Technology Sardar Latif Khosa and IT executives.

By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the PM on Information Technology Sardar Latif Khosa faces a mutiny-like situation in his ministry and from the Board of Directors of the two extremely wealthy telecom-specific private sector companies, which the minister heads, but wants to run them in his own style.

There are apprehensions about the fate of a huge fund of more than Rs 20 billion available with these companies. However, what is really a serious matter for Khosa is the opposition that he is facing from his own secretary as well as member telecom of the IT Ministry over the question of key appointments in these companies, which were created for research and development and for spreading modern telecom services in under-served areas of Pakistan. Already Khosa had a confrontation with his secretary in a recent Senate Committee meeting where yet another PPP Senator Syed Faisal Raza Abidi joined Khosa and shouted at the top officials of the ministry and these companies. The adviser is alleged to have violated the SECP rules as he ignored the Board of Directors of these companies to impose his own will to get his choice men appointed as Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of these companies — the Universal Service Fund (USF) and National Information Communication Technologies Research and Development Fund ICTRDF.

Neither have these companies nor has their fund anything to do with the government as they are registered under companies act with the SECP and generate fund from the telecom operators to support their corporate objectives. The minister in-charge of the IT is the ex-officio chairman of these companies. Some directors are now seriously contemplating to remove Khosa as the chairman of their companies. Khosa, when contacted, insisted that he was strictly going by the book and wanted that the appointments of the CEOs of these companies should be made on merit and through a transparent procedure. He rejected the allegations that he wanted his choice men, including his brother-in-law, to be appointed as CEOs of these companies but said that he was really serious to scrutinize the projects of these companies.

Over the controversies surrounding the key appointments, Khosa has already suspended the company secretary following the intervention of the Senate Committee on IT where Senator Faisal Raza Abidi, interestingly, not only objected to the presence of USF CEO but also sought suspension of the company secretary. The sources said that Khosa and Abidi, who both belong to the presidential camp, used extremely insulting language against the secretary IT, CEO USF and company secretary in the committee meeting. At one stage, these sources said that one of the senators was heard threatening that he would personally go to the IT Ministry to beat the people there with shoes.

Khosa, the sources said, confronted Federal Secretary IT Najibullah Malik, who insisted that despite being the chairman of the USF Khosa has just one vote and he cannot override the powers and authority of the Board of Directors. In the rush of blood, Khosa during the Senate committee meeting announced the suspension of USF company’s secretary although the SECP rules say that the chairman of a company could sack the company secretary but only with the approval of the Board of Directors.

The secretary IT Ministry, member telecommunication IT Ministry and all other members of the USF BoD believe that the chairman USF could neither suspend the company’s secretary on his own nor he could initiate appointment procedure for the appointment of a new CEO USF.

Documents available with The News reveal that in one of its recent meetings, the board of USF, with the exception of Khosa, supported the proposal to give extension in the tenure of the incumbent CEO USF. Khosa instead objected that since the item seeking extension of the CEO USF was not part of the agenda, it should be brought before the board as part of the regular agenda for BoD’s consideration. The BoD agreed to the chairman’s view but decided that the CEO USF would continue till the filling of the post by the board. But later, Khosa asked the company’s secretary to advertise the post. The USF secretary told Khosa that it couldn’t be done without the approval of the board. The company secretary was asked to get the approval of the board members through circulation but it could not happen and most of the members did not reply whereas a few of the members, instead of giving approval to this, asked to take up the matter before the next board meeting.

In the case of the other company, ICTRDF, the sources said that Khosa wanted to appoint his brother-in-law as CEO ICTRDF but it could not happen because the selection committee did not shortlist the favourite’s name after his PhD degree was found to be fake by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan. The aspirant is serving in the CDA. Khosa, when contacted, denied that he intended to appoint his brother-in-law as CEO ICTRDF and said that if he wanted to do it, his relative’s name would have been short-listed. Najibullah Malik and Member Telecom, Ministry of IT, Mushtaq Ahmad Bhatti, when contacted by The News said the company act clearly envisaged the BoD was the competent authority and that the chairman of the company had no over-riding powers but had just one vote like any other member of the board.

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