Telecos agree to block SIMs of non-filers

Companies seek over a week’s time from FBR to implement move

Irshad Ansari May 07, 2024


The country’s telecom companies have assured the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) that they would block the mobile phone SIMs of over half a million non-filers but sought a period of one to 1.5 weeks for carrying out this task.

FBR Chairman Malik Amjed Zubair Tiwana held meetings with the officials of the telecom companies and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for three consecutive days in which the implementation of the Income Tax General Order (ITGO) issued by the board to disable the mobile phone SIMs of 506,671 individuals, who had failed to file their returns for the year 2023, was discussed.

However, the spokesperson of the Telecom Operators Association of Pakistan said that during yesterday's meeting with the FBR, telecom operators highlighted additional technical and operational issues alongside legal issues in its implementation. Another meeting is planned to discuss the way forward. Telecom operators did not provide assurance for blocking SIMs.

Sources said on the first day of the meeting, the telecom companies opposed the move to block mobile SIMs.

Read Telecoms protest SIMs blocking

They pointed out that the law to block the SIMs of non-filers had been in place for two years, but had not been implemented so far. The telecom companies contended that it was unfair to implement it so strictly after two years.

Besides, they noted that the FBR also had the authority to disconnect the power and gas supply to the non-filer under this law.

They added that the FBR should proceed with this move as well if the law had to be fully implemented.

The sources said the FBR responded that it was the government’s prerogative how, where, and when to use its powers.

It added that it was not mandatory to exercise simultaneously all the powers conferred by any law.

The sources said the telecom companies also argued that the implementation of this decision would cause a loss of Rs50 million to them and the FBR would also suffer in terms of tax revenue.

The FBR replied that it received revenue worth Rs1.7 billion in a week from the telecom sector.

It added that it was necessary to document the country’s economy even if this initiative caused a loss of Rs500 million and the FBR would only witness a decline in revenue by Rs50 million.

Read more SIM disabling order falls flat on govt’s face

However, it contended that this loss would be temporary as when the non-filers were documented, the telecom companies would receive a revenue boost and the FBR its taxes.

The sources said the telecom companies also suggested that 20,000 to 25,000 mobile SIMs should blocked. They also proposed that there were non-filers who had more than one SIM and they could be frozen one by one.

In response, the FBR officials explained to the telecom companies that parliament had made a formal law in connection with the blocking of mobile phone SIMs of non-filers.

They continued that parliament was the supreme body and it was necessary to implement the law or strict action would be taken against those who violated it.

The sources said during the meeting held on Monday, the telecom companies had expressed their willingness to implement the decision to block the mobile phone SIMs of non-filers and sought time from the FBR to prepare proposals based on workable solutions.

They added that during the meeting held on Tuesday, the telecom companies assured the FBR chairman that they would implement the decision to block the mobile SIMs of non-filers.

The telecom companies said they fully complied with the laws of the country.


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