Misuse of SIMs: Mobile phone operators may face crackdown

Published: December 25, 2014
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Govt likely to toughen legislation to counter the misuse of SIMs. STOCK IMAGE

Govt likely to toughen legislation to counter the misuse of SIMs. STOCK IMAGE

ISLAMABAD: The government plans to launch a crackdown against cellular phone companies, which issued illegal SIM cards used in recent terrorist acts as it considers tougher legislation to regulate the telecom sector.

“We have directed cellular companies to block 0.5 million illegal SIM cards by Sunday (Dec 28)—otherwise a crackdown will be started against these companies,” a senior official of ministry of interior told The Express Tribune on Wednesday. He said Intelligence agencies are also trying to catch the former employee of a cellular company, who issued five SIM cards on the name of a woman hailing from South Punjab. These SIM cards were later used in the recent Peshawar school attack,” he said.

He said that since 2003, more than 115 current or former employees of these cellular companies are wanted in 365 terrorism related incidents. “These accused had issued illegal SIM cards to customers, who later used them in executing terror attacks,” he explained.

“In view of the misuse of SIM cards, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has also called a meeting of all regulators –cellular phone companies, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) as well as ministries of information technology and law and justice and human rights to discuss all the issues on Monday, December 29,” he added.

He said the FIA also believes that around 20,567 SIM cards of various Afghan telecom companies are operational along the border in Pakistan.

According to a PTA official, the government is deliberating to amend the PTA laws and is thinking about including name of cellular companies in terrorism related cases if SIM cards are used in such incidents.

“The amended laws will help National Database Registration Authority (NADRA), the FIA and courts to track identity of those who will misuse the SIM cards,” PTA official added.

He said some modifications will also be made in existing laws of PTA Act which states: “Following a war or hostilities against Pakistan by any foreign power or internal aggression or for the defense or security of Pakistan—the federal government may suspend or modify all or any order or licences made or issued under this Act or cause suspension of operation, functions or services of any licensee for such time as it may deem necessary.”

Law expert Afnan Kundi said Pakistan Telecom Act should be further amended to ensure national security.

Another senior lawyer Babar Sattar also suggested setting new conditions for cellular companies as well as the customers. “The new laws must bound companies to seek proper verification from the customers,” he said.

The PTA’s official spokesperson said: “The PTA is in the process of making a comprehensive strategy to deal with this issue.”

*Correction: An earlier version of the story did not include the PTA spokesperson’s statement 

Published in The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Overseas Pakistani
    Dec 25, 2014 - 11:32AM

    In Saudi Arabia SIM is only recharged my entering owner valid NIC number. In this way no SIM can be use by fake NIC number. This practice should be implement in Pakistan.

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  • Aschraful Makhlooq
    Dec 25, 2014 - 11:47AM

    Due to previous governments weak policies and increasing the SIM cards’ sale mobile companies disobeyed the terms and conditions and issued the SIM cards rapidly,whereas in the foreign countries there are SIM cards’ issuance procedure set by the governments the mobile companies have been following strictly,this is why now-a-days terrorists are using mostly unregistered SIM cards or registered on other persons’ names.A strict policy is required to restrict the cellular companies for SIM cards’ sales across Pakistan and if strict policies were adopted from the first day of launching cellular companies in Pakistan then the misuse of cellular numbers would have not happened as the currently has been……

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  • Ghulam
    Dec 25, 2014 - 12:17PM

    Government blaming the CMOs for its own failings. Were the bullets that killed those children in that school fired from mobile phones? Was it the responsibility of the CMOs to secure that school against terrorist attacks?

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  • Kayem
    Dec 25, 2014 - 12:51PM

    Hopefully the Govt. will not back off from these measures under pressure from our flexible and grossly inept politicos! This would be the ideal moment to also include in the proposed laws the requirement to register the cell phone’s IMEI (Serial) Number to inhibit snatchings and muggings. Undoubtedly, the second-hand phones market will resist such a law, but now is the time to tighten up all round.

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  • Kamal
    Dec 25, 2014 - 1:10PM

    Again, late and half cooked measures. By now clear ban should have come and threat of enormous penalties on Mobile operators and their dealers if even 1 SIM was found to be issued without due diligence and validated NICs. War demands immediate and effective steps.

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  • Kamal
    Dec 25, 2014 - 1:11PM

    Again, late and half cooked measures. By now clear ban should have come and threat of enormous penalties on Mobile operators and their dealers if even 1 SIM was found to be issued without due diligence and validated NICs. War demands immediate and effective steps.Recommend

  • ishrat salim
    Dec 25, 2014 - 1:31PM

    If the problem existed since 2003, why action this late ? what the govt of Gen M, PPP & PM N doing all this time ? In KSA no mobile SIMs get activated or re-charged without IQAMA number….I think & propose the govt to send delegation to KSA to learn from their experience…since last terrorist act of 2006, not 1 took place. KSA actions have been harsh & many a times ruthless, then as PM said ” difficult times need difficult measures “.

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  • F Khan
    Dec 25, 2014 - 2:49PM

    Most of the crimes are on illegal SIMs of snatched cars.All you need to get a SIM is a NIC copy (with or without the consent of the NIC card holder).There should be only post paid mobile phones in Pakistan.Period. This will reduce the misuse of SIM’s by 80%.

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  • F Khan
    Dec 25, 2014 - 7:25PM

    @Overseas Pakistani: The problem here in Pakistan is that either the SIM one has is snatched or stolen or lost and not reported (not blocked) or one gets hold of anybodies NIC copy and get the SIM. So the guy can recharge the SIM as he already has the NIC photocopy (and hence the number). The due diligence by the service provider is missing like checking the original, verifying the identification,timely blocking the SIM, allocating the SIM/number to someone else etc. The service provider has to be netted so that they come under the gambit of law. Heavy fines including cancellation of licence by the regulators is to take place,if the provider is found to be negligent.

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  • Ali
    Dec 25, 2014 - 9:21PM

    @Ghulam
    SIM cards weren’t used to spray bullets but they were used to communicate with their handlers. I know, you guys love to blame everything on the government because it seems people like you and me have no responsibility toward the nation building.

    Get off your high horse and learn to take some responsibility.

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  • M.Shaheryar
    Dec 26, 2014 - 8:55AM

    The new method of issuing sims by talking thumb impression is a good thing, all the sims “OLD” or “NEW” should be registered by this method otherwise it should be blocked

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