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January 6, 2015

IHC moved to stop operation of Afghan SIMS in Pakistan


January 6, 2015

Justice Athar Minallah of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) would hear a matter tomorrow (Wednesday), where a petitioner has been contending before the court to issue directions to the respondents to stop operation of Afghan mobile phone SIMS in Pakistan.
The petitioner in person, Raja Saimul Haq Satti advocate has cited federation of Pakistan through chairman, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), federal minister for interior, Director General (DG) Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), chief executive officers of all the five mobile telecom companies, five provincial governments and competition commission of Pakistan as respondents.
The petitioner adopted before the court that the government has directed the regulator, PTA, to curtail the operations of illegal and un-registered Afghan cellular phones in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because of security issues but all in vain. Around 50,000 SIMs of Afghan mobile telephone companies are being operated inside Pakistani territory and using international roaming services to make and receive calls and were suspected of being used in serious crimes such as extortion threats, anti-state activities, extension of threats of dire consequences, carry out bomb blasts, kidnapping for ransom cases in Pakistan, illegal VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) activity and by terrorist networks for communication. Apart from this, the SIMS also work on their local Afghan networks in certain Fata regions which are close to the Afghan border.
The petitioner stated that some time back Pakistani law enforcement forces had recovered 17,000 Afghan Sims after a raid on an illegal VoIP set-up in Peshawar owned by a multinational telecom group and Roshan cellular networks, which have roaming facility agreements with Ufone and Zong but so far the federal government has neither suspended / discontinued the roaming services for Afghan Sims nor its regulator PTA for unknown reasons get international roaming agreements

and operational system which are mandatory in other jurisdictions of the world for approval from the regulator.
It stated that there were two mechanisms through which the Afghan Sims had been operating. In some cases, they were activated in Afghanistan and functioned in Pakistan’s tribal areas through the signals emanating from Afghanistan and the second category of Sim cards functioned due to the roaming facility given to the relevant Afghan company by a Pakistani mobile phone operator i.e. the Etisalat telecom company operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan whereby callers hide their identity.
The petitioner said that there are 19.7 million subscribers of Ufone, 36 million of Mobilink, 30 million of Telenor, 17.9 million of Zong and 20 million of Warid in the country. Therefore, if an unregistered or illegally registered cell phone SIM card is used in any act of terrorism, including bomb blasts, then the relevant CEO and the management of cellular company should not only be booked for perpetration of crimes but also be made liable to pay the compensation to the legal heirs of the deceased and the injured under Qisas and Diyat laws.
That the registration mechanism intentionally has not been made fool proof by the cellular companies as biometric system can be introduced under which a Sim card would be activated only after thumb verification of the subscriber.
That as a matter of fact the PTA does not have the latest equipment to trace grey traffic, illegal exchanges are causing a loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer annually but this loss is recovered from poor customers by minting and fleecing money through different modes.
The petitioner has prayed to the court to direct PTA to and telecom service providers to not only to block and suspend the operation of millions of illegal, unregistered Afghan SIMs and the relevant CEO and the management of cellular companies be booked for perpetration under cyber crimes and be made liable to pay the compensation to the legal heirs of the deceased and the injured in terrorism incidents.

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