Giving instant relief to thousands of overseas Pakistan on Eidul Azha, the Lahore High Court on Thursday suspended the notification of the Ministry of Information Technology imposing additional tax on incoming international calls. The LHC has immediately stopped the federal government from receiving the additional tax on incoming calls to Pakistan.
Many of 6.5 million overseas Pakistanis were protesting against the imposition of tax, which is widely believed as an attempt to ‘benefit’ a cartel of 14 Long Distance International (LDI) operators.
A Lahore based Local Loop Operator (LLO) Brain Telecommunication Limited challenged the additional tax on the incoming calls through a writ petition.
Barrister Umar, counsel for the LLO, argued that with the approval of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the Ministry of Information Technology had issued a policy directive asking the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to immediately execute an agreement, International Clearing House (ICH), with 14 LDIs. The PTA acted upon the ‘instructions’ and established the ICH for LDI operators with effect from October 01.
By revising the international call termination charges, the overseas Pakistanis were paying 3 to 4 times on an average more to call back home as foreign telecom operators had increased rates, Barrister Umer pointed out adding the Approved Settlement Rate (ASR) for international incoming calls was also notified by the PTA.
According to the agreement of ICH — a single technical exchange or gateway — the PTA was fixing the prices of per minute incoming calls from different foreign countries to Pakistan, while quota was also being distributed among the cartel of 14 LDIs, the counsel contended.
He argued the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) had also issued a dissenting note to information technology ministry and the PTA, to withdraw its decision to establish an international clearing house exchange. The decision was also not tenable in terms of Competition Act 2010.