Senate calls for clear policy on unverified SIMs
10 October, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Interior on Wednesday directed the Ministry of Interior, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Ministry of Information Technology to form a comprehensive policy regarding unverified mobile phone SIMs, noting that it is a great concern for the law enforcement agencies.
The senators noted that majority of the unverified SIMs were used in criminal and terrorists activities, thus they are a great threat to the people's lives. Committee Chairman Senator Talha Mehmood directed the ministries of interior, information technology and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to establish a comprehensive policy regarding verification of unverified SIMs immediately.
Ministry of Interior Additional Secretary Hafiz Siyal told the committee that the ministry has held several meetings with telecom companies and they had agreed that asking a customer their mother's name and place of birth for SIM verification had become ineffective after the general election 2013. He said that during the election, the electoral lists disclosed the mother's name and place of birth of every person, therefore the verification process adopted for SIM verification has become ineffective.
Now, he said, the Ministry of Interior, PTA and telecom operators are in close contact for adoption of a new method for verification of SIMs. Siyal informed the committee that the Ministry of Information Technology has been tasked with making a comprehensive policy for verification of SIMs and it has already made some progress over it. Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rashid was of the view the PTA has failed to deliver properly and is safeguarding the interests of telecom companies while failing to protect state's interests.
The minister suggested that the Ministry of Interior has to establish a policy to arrest few top persons of those telecom companies whose SIMs were being used in terrorist activities. He asked why had the telecom companies issued a large number of SIMs without proper identification. Meanwhile, Federal Investigation Agency's (FIA) representative Jafar Shah informed the committee that the PTA Act has failed to define the term illegal SIM. Secondly, he said the punishment defined in PTA Act was not up to the level.
NADRA director general told the committee that the substitute solution for SIM verification is biometric checking, through which detail of a person can be checked online. The committee also expressed serious concern over mobile phones without proper EMEI numbers, which are also used in criminal activities. A customs official told the committee that it is difficult for customs officials to check every imported mobile set for EMEI number. The chief commissioner said that EMEI number was usually changed in local markets.
Committee Chairman Senator Talha Mehmood expressed great concern over the use of Afghanistan's SIMs openly in Pakistan, and said the local people have been receiving phone calls from Afghanistan's SIMs for ransom and other criminal activities. The PTA Acting Chairman Ismail Shah apprised the committee that such SIMs were used in Pakistan on roaming after proper approval from the government. But Talha Mehmood told the PTA that there should be a set number of days for roaming and it should not be free for an unlimited period of time. The PTA chairman also told the committee that the authority has blocked 22.5 million unverified SIMs.