Wednesday June 19, 2024

'Over 9,000 SIMs blocked' as FBR tightens noose around non-filers

IHC maintains that federal government's decision to block non-filers' SIMs still in effect

By Ashraf Malkham
May 22, 2024
SIMs can be seen in this representational image. —Pixabay/ File
SIMs can be seen in this representational image. —Pixabay/ File

ISLAMABAD: As per planned action against non-filers by the federal government to curb tax evasion, over 9,000 SIMs of non-filers were blocked following the directives of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

A spokesperson of the tax collecting body said the FBR informed the telecommunication companies about the decision to block SIMs in order to curb tax evasion to improve revenue generation amid dire economic indicators in a meeting on Tuesday.

“The decision has been made by parliament, therefore, the government’s decision should be implemented in any case,” he added.

Meanwhile, sources said that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has distanced itself from the matter of SIM’s blocking.

The authority maintains that it did not have the authority to block the SIMs.

Earlier, two telecom firms blocked another 3,500 SIMs owned by the non-filers on Tuesday, the FBR spokesperson said.

He further stated that the SIMs of those who file the tax returns will be unblocked immediately.

Gov decision to block SIMs still in effect: IHC

Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court (IHC), which is hearing a case pertaining to the orders for blocking SIMs of the non-filers, said that the government’s decision to block SIMs of a non-filler was still in effect as the injunction of the court was not related to blocking the SIMs of non-filers.

The court had issued a stay order against the action on the telecom companies in a petition against government for its decision to block SIMs.

The federal government has filed a separate petition seeking to lift the stay order on the proceedings against the mobile network companies.

At the outset of the hearing, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq clarified that the stay order was solely to safeguard the petitioner and that the injunction was not to block the SIMs. Therefore, the decision of the federal government was still in effect, he said

“We can understand that the federal government is focusing on economic reforms. This step may have been taken in the context of economic reforms,” the chief justice said.

The court further pledged to expedite the proceedings and adjourned the case till June.

After lengthy deliberations among the stakeholders, the FBR announced earlier this month that telecom companies have agreed to commence the manual blocking process of SIMs in small batches until their systems are fully equipped to automate it.

The tax collection body had said that the first batch comprising 5,000 non-filers had been communicated to the telecom operators and that more batches would be sent to telecom firms on a daily basis.

Earlier, it was decided to block 500,000 SIMs of individuals who did not appear on the active taxpayer list but were liable to file the Income Tax Return for Tax Year 2023.

— With additional input from APP