Pakistan’s First Right Of Way Policy: Towards Digital Pakistan

Key Points:

  • Following initial rejection and backdoor diplomacy, the Public & Private Right of Way Policy Directive was finally approved in January 2021 for facilitating the installation and maintenance of telecom infrastructure throughout the country.
  • The Prime Minister’s Task Force on IT & Telecom originally sought to devise specific rules for the Right of Way (RoW). However, given the absence of unanimity amongst the stakeholders, the task force presented a basic framework instead, in the form of a policy directive.
  • RoW provides an authorisation enabling operators to set up telecom installations on roads, railways, electric transmission cables, et cetera following a payment.
  • Key provisions of the policy include one-window operation, fee determination, dispute resolution, ensuring national security, guarding against health hazards, declaring telecom infrastructure as critical infrastructure, sharing of RoW, and establishing common service corridors.
  • The implementation of the newly introduced policy directive is expected to reduce the administrative roadblocks for the telecom firms.
  • RoW policy is deemed to be a baseline for Digital Pakistan by providing the framework for 5G readiness, ease of doing business, and improved connectivity of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
  • Although the current policy does provide a sufficient framework towards digitalisation yet ensuring its implementation can prove to be an uphill task given its non-binding nature.
  • The policy has not specified a target amount of monetary savings or an established period to acquire its goals. Consequently, there is no way to determine or gauge the extent of effectiveness of its different provisions.

Fareha Iqtidar Khan

Fareha Iqtidar Khan is Associate Editor at the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research. She is also Visiting Faculty at the International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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