ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information Technology on Wednesday showed concern about the closure of youtube in the country, and recommended to the Information Technology Ministry sit together with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and take concrete steps over the issue.

When the body asked PTA officials about the present status of the video-sharing website in the country, they said 748 web links to a US-produced blasphemous movie had been closed and 4,906 websites containing illicit content blocked. They told the committee the authority also blocked 584 anti-state websites; it was doing agreements with other countries to stop the flow of objectionable content on the worldwide web.

A committee member, Humayun Saifullah, said the PTA should be given full authority to block all websites containing illicit and anti-state content. The committee recommended to the Ministry of Information Technology sit with the PTA and take concrete steps over the youtube issue.  The committee meanwhile approved the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organisation) Bill, 2012, aimed to eradicate grey trafficking from the country. The bill would be brought before the National Assembly in its next session.

The committee resented the absence of Zafar Qadir, secretary for the Information Technology Ministry, and other senior officials from the meeting as they had to present the official version over the agenda items, especially the item of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, 2010, that was made part of the committee agenda on the wish of the ministry.

The standing body meeting, held with Ch Barjees Tahir in the chair, expressed annoyance over the silence of the PTA officials that failed to respond to its queries about the crime bill.

Barjees Tahir said either the officials should withdraw that (agenda) item or brief the legislative body over it. He said it showed that the ministry had no coordination with the National Assembly Secretariat and all the officials of the ministry were doing nothing.

During the meeting, Ms Anusha Rehman presented the report of the sub-committee on the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organisation) (Amendment) Bill, 2010, moved by Humayun Saifullah Khan. The committee approved the bill designed to remove grey trafficking from the country. It was decided that the bill would be presented to the National Assembly in its next session for approval from the House.

Anusha Rehman said a new clause had been added to the bill to give representation to the provinces. However, the Law Division said that being a regulator, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had no authority and the new clause could be added after the approval of the Council of Common Interests (CCI). Humayun Saifullah laid stress on the need for devising a mechanism to take input from the FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan in this respect.

The standing body raised the issue of payments to the consultants hired for 3G auction, observing that nothing had been done and the government would have to pay millions of rupees in bills.

However, a member of the PTA Finance apprised the committee that the PTA did not pay any amount to the consultants, and assured that the PTA would not pay any amount to them.

The committee recommended that Farooq Ahmed Khan, who was chairman at that time, did this in his personal capacity; therefore this amount be deducted from his account.