ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) told the interior ministry on Tuesday that it had blocked 92.6 million mobile subscriber information modules (SIMs) since the national action plan had been implemented in January, 2015.
“We have completed biometric verification of 94 million SIMs across the country. Also, blocked 92.6 million SIMs,” PTA chief Ismail Shah told a meeting at the Ministry of Interior on Tuesday.
Shah added that 111 million SIMs had been verified since biometric verification had been mandated. Further, 94.6 million SIMs had been verified since August, 2014.
Per the latest data available from PTA (March 2015), the mobile teledensity in Pakistan stands at 72.13% with 134.9 million subscribers.
SIM verification deadline extended till May 15
The government on Tuesday gave mobile network operators two more weeks to complete biometric verification of SIMs, setting a fresh deadline for May 15.
Chairing a high level meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar approved a request by cellular companies to extend the deadline for completing the verification process.
“Cell phone companies must cooperate with us. It is a matter of our national security,” said Nisar.
Previously, the PTA had announced that all unverified mobile phone SIMs would be blocked after April 12.
Nisar said that although the government was against providing an extension to cellular companies for verification of SIMs, it has shown flexibility keeping in view concerns of investors in the country.
“Issue of verification of SIMs should not be linked to investment – it is a question of Pakistan’s security,” said Nisar.
Earlier this year, cellular companies had threatened that they would shut down their operations if Pakistan did not show some flexibility on the SIM verification deadline.
The interior ministry had then allegedly floated the idea of registering a case against mobile companies whose SIMs were being used in terror-related incidents. Intelligence agencies have claimed that many wanted terrorists were either in contact with employees of telecommunication companies’ or were using their SIMs in various attacks.
“Cellular companies will have to cooperate with the government. Their threats to shut down the business will not work anymore,” said Nisar. “Please bear with us as we are going through testing times.”
Published in Express Tribune