Perils of technological advancement in Pakistan

Tuesday 12th December 2006

Perils of technological advancement in Pakistan

You might have read of the recent raid by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on the premises of my former employer, Cogilent Solutions, and the subsequent arrest of their CEO, Faisal Chohan. The raid was conducted under the suspicion that Cogilent was providing illegal voice termination services, yet they have yet to produce (or fabricate) any evidence supporting this suspicion. Meanwhile, Faisal remains in custody and under interrogation.

I was heading Cogilent's "Networks" department about a year ago and was looking after a number of projects, under the guidance of Jawad, our CTO. One of their products, IRIS, was a call center solution based on the Asterisk open source software and this was pretty much the closest they ever came to providing voice services. It had nothing to do with call termination or anything illegal.

To show how ridiculous this whole exercise was, here is a list of items that the FIA confiscated during their raid:

  • 1 Notebook PC
  • 2 8-Port LAN Switches
  • 1 ADSL Router
  • 1 P-II 400 MHz PC running Linux and Asterisk
  • 1 P-III PC running Asterisk
  • 1 PC running squid (this machine was called "gateway" by the Cogilent guys and when PTA officials during raid were frantically asking for gateway or SIMs, the poor guys pointed to this machine as 'gateway' and FIA team happily confiscated that.
  • 1 Desktop PC with monitor, web cam, key board, etc.

And to top this off, both the PTA and PTCL failed to appear in court for the hearing and the FIA failed to provide any evidence supporting their allegations.

Despite the medieval laws concerning technology in this country, Pakistan is one of the leaders in the development of Voice over IP products and technology. If simply providing such services can be cause for arrest and confiscation of property, how can anyone be expected to continue any positive development here?

Below is an excerpt of an email that was forwarded to me by Hammad, a smart fellow that was in my team and is still with Cogilent Solutions:

In order to highlight the issue before press and IT community, friends of Faisal, Jawad, Cogilent and IT/CS professionals of twin cities would be arranging a peaceful and graceful protest in front of Software Technology Park-II, Evacuee Trust Complex, Aga Khan Road, Next to Marriot Hotel, on Wednesday, 13 December 2006 at 1:30 pm sharp.

I'll be there together with most of the other IT professionals that I know. I hope the blogging community can also raise their voice against such injustice and help in preventing this nation from slipping back to the stone age.

20:08pm


On 12th December 2006, at 20:40pm PKT, zeb said:

That was hilarious!! What else can you expect from these ppl? Now I completely understand why most of the IT professionals revised the slogan of "Pakistan zindabad" to "Pakistan say zinda bhaag".

On 13th December 2006, at 08:28am PKT, Yusuf said:

So sorry to hear about the raid. Good luck to you and your friends in the protest. Keep us posted.

On 13th December 2006, at 11:37am PKT, Adnan Siddiqi said:

Thanks Sajjad for bringing it up. I have also made a post about it when I read in a newsgroup. See below:

http://www.inblogs.net/kadnan/2006/12/other-side-of-pakistani-it-industry.html

On 13th December 2006, at 15:19pm PKT, Adnan Siddiqi said:

Actually It should be slashdotted.

On 13th December 2006, at 16:34pm PKT, Hammad Sherwani said:

Dear all,
I am really thankful to all of you for participating in the protest against the raid at cogilent solutions from PTA and FIA. Cogilent use asterisks to provide services to call centers and we use it in our office to fullfill our communication needs, which is allowed by PTA. you can check and see the "Regulation of VOIP in Pakistan" for students and researchers can use VOIP to fullfill their communication needs. Visit http://www.pta.gov.pk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=668&scid=150&Itemid=1&bold=voip

On 14th December 2006, at 09:26am PKT, Waqas Toor said:

First the ban of Blogs , then use of Voip websites voip cheap and voipstunt ... and now this ... what this PTA thinks its doing ? IT infrastructure is misrable in pakistan and still some one who has gutts to make it better is being held and stopped by these stupid goons ... when will some body understand that consiquences and FUD this PTA is creating for the yet crippled Pakistan IT industry .. very sad :(

On 14th December 2006, at 12:11pm PKT, Saj said:

Just to go on record, I got a call about an hour ago from a very short number, usually reserved for intelligence or military organizations.

The person was asking some weird questions about my blog, but didn't say who he was. I better shift this website to some place out of reach of the authorities.

On 14th December 2006, at 15:01pm PKT, Sajjad said:

This test message being posted on my US server. Hope it works.

On 15th December 2006, at 13:13pm PKT, Waqas Toor said:

hehehehe ... you better save your arse by your self ... and i think this is what makes it more pathetic

On 31st January 2007, at 22:32pm PKT, Web Designer said:

This is pathetic to hear about all this.

On 2nd March 2007, at 18:16pm PKT, Naveed said:

This is all just a non-sense

On 2nd March 2007, at 18:18pm PKT, Designer said:

Very very sad...