More than 53 million mobile phone SIMs have been verified through the biometric verification system during the last 38 days, said Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Syed Ismail Shah.
Speaking to the Sustainable Development Policy Institute’s study group on IT and telecom, he informed them that the remaining 49 million SIMs will be verified within 91 days.
Deliberating on the regulatory aspects of the re-verification initiative taken under the National Action Plan, he said the regulator has to maintain a fine balance between the increasing demands of law enforcement agencies in the wake of the law and order situation and protecting the investment made by cellular mobile operators.
“Still a lot of progress remains to be made as the turnout of subscribers having three or more SIMs on their CNICs is very low,” said the PTA chairman.
Telenor Corporate Affairs Vice President Aslam Hayat said the sale of verifiable SIMs had remained a challenge in Pakistan. “SIM is not a primary source of crime but a useful tool for investigation.”
Highlighting the importance of putting in place the required infrastructure for coordinated efforts, Pakistan Institute of ICT for Development Chief Executive and former additional DG FIA Ammar Jaffri stressed the need for maintaining a balance between the vital need of registration of SIMs and the comfort level of people, especially in rural areas. “There is a need for establishing tele-centres in semi-urban and rural areas under public-private partnerships.”
He said keeping in view the fact that criminals in every society take advantage of technological advancements, registration and regular documentation of SIMs has become a priority for good governance in all countries.
Only a few countries could not put in place the required infrastructure in this regard and these include Pakistan, he said.
As many as 70,000 biometric machines have been installed at sale points of cellular mobile operators. SIMs are now being sold and activated only after online verification of the purchaser’s biometrics (thumb/finger impressions) by the National Database and Registration Authority.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2015.