KARACHI: Pakistan is taking its longstanding payment dispute with Etisalat, an Abu Dhabi-listed telecom giant, seriously and the matter will now be taken up by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) and the cabinet, Federal Minister for Information Technology Syed Amin Ul Haque recently said while talking to Arab News.
"In connection with Etisalat, a meeting was held two days ago in which it was decided that all stakeholders would be taken onboard and … the matter would be moved to the ECC," he said on Sunday. "We are taking the issue very seriously."
Etisalat secured the majority voting rights and management control of the Pakistan Telecommunications Limited (PTCL) in July 2005 after buying 26 percent stakes in the company for $2.6 billion.
The Middle Eastern organization paid an initial sum of $1.8 billion, expecting transfer of ownership of some government properties to the PTCL. However, it did not happen in certain cases due to ownership complications, making the company stop the remaining payment of $800 million in six twice-yearly installments.
Last year, the country’s privatization commission secretary informed a Senate Standing Committee that the PTCL asset management wing had provided flawed records on its properties, adding that the company owned 3,248 properties but had mentioned 3,384 in the final privatization agreement.
He also maintained that the government had provided a list of all 3,248 properties to Etisalat, explaining why the remaining ones could not be transferred to the PTCL.
In January this year, Etisalat had offered to pay about $300 million to resolve the dispute by deducting about $500 million on account of non-transferable properties.
"The issue of [these] properties is different from the issue of money being demanded. This will be sorted out and resolved,” Haque said, adding that the “matter would be moved to the cabinet after the ECC."
In 2018, Pakistan had considered the option of going to the international court of arbitration against Etisalat for the recovery of $800 million in privatization proceeds.
The country's current de facto finance minister, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, had supervised the transaction structure of the PTCL shares as the privatization minister, though he left the government before the final agreement was signed.