The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has once again requested the foreign ministry to coordinate a meeting with Afghanistan’s telecom authorities in order to work out how to curb the use of Afghan SIMs in areas bordering the war-torn country.
PTA has already blocked Afghan SIMs from being used in much of Pakistan after they were found to be used in cases of kidnapping for ransom and other illegal activities.
“We banned these SIMs to foil the nefarious designs of terrorists,” a senior PTA official said. “But these SIMs can still be used in areas close to the border with Afghanistan due to the spillover of signals from the country,” he told The Express Tribune.
“Through a meeting, we expect to convince [telecom] operators in Afghanistan to control the spillover of signals so that militants are unable to exploit this situation,” the official said. He revealed that the talks could not begin so far as Afghanistan still has to appoint an information technology minister.
“We have no option but to request the new administration in Afghanistan through diplomatic channels to get the situation under control.”
Recently, the Islamabad High Court sought a detailed response from the PTA chairman regarding a petition to ban the use of Afghan SIMs in Pakistan. The petitioner had pointed out that more than 50,000 Afghan SIMs were being operated in Pakistan and many were being used in terrorist and criminal activities.
Ongoing SIM verification
Over 62.74 million SIMs have been verified against 47.76 million Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) so far, PTA Chairman Dr Ismail Shah said on Saturday. More than 10 million SIMs have been blocked after being disowned by supposed users, he revealed.
Breaking down the statistics, Dr Shah said a record 2.27 million SIMs were verified against 1.96 million CNICs in a single day on February 25. Before that, 1.37 million SIMs were verified against 1.45 million CNICs on February 19, 1.48 million SIMs were verified against 1.26 million CNICs on February 20, 1.45 million SIMs verified against 1.22 million CNICs on February 21, 1.12 million SIMs were verified against 950,000 CNICs on February 22 and 1.58 million SIMs were verified against 1.26 million CNICs on February 23.
The PTA chief said cellphone users were rushing to service centres and retail outlets of their respective mobile phone carriers to get their SIMs verified. He urged users who still have not verified their SIMs to get it done before the deadline passes.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2015.