How to control the use of Illegal SIMs
A SIGNIFICANT contributor to the law and order situation in the country has been the unaccountable SIMs which are then used either to coordinate acts of terrorism or criminal activities, as well as in some extreme cases to detonate bombs.
Owing to the absence of a regime where SIMs could be associated with the person whose name it is registered in it has been impossible for the authorities to trace the individual using the illegal SIM.
The Sindh High Court recently took notice of this situation and mandated that no SIM would be issued without verifying the fingerprints of the person requesting issuance of a SIM.
This is a much-needed step and all five mobile network operators in the country are in the process of implementing this new regime.
The next logical step once the fingerprint verification infrastructure would be in place is to require all existing SIM holders to physically appear at the mobile service providers’ franchise or retail outlets and get their fingerprint verified within a certain period of time else the SIM should be deactivated.
Now this brings us to the other issue of use of Afghan SIMs or other international SIMs on roaming which are then used for such malicious activities.
- It may be noted that in countries like the UK, pre-activated pre-paid SIMs are dispensed at vending machines without having to present any identification. We need to understand the UK has different dynamics than Pakistan. However, one thing is for sure such that SIMs can be easily used for malicious activities in Pakistan without the law-enforcement agencies having any possibility to trace the person carrying the SIM.
- We certainly cannot prohibit the use of roaming international SIMs in Pakistan. So what is the solution? The solution is straightforward and can be easily implemented by cellular network providers mandated by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority.
- There are only handful international airports in Pakistan, and the number of foreigners entering the country through these airports is at best in the hundreds. If a facilitation centre is set up by the PTA or some other organization under the auspices of the PTA for capturing fingerprints of the traveler, and a copy of the passport before authorizing their SIMs to roam on any of the Pakistani networks, it would solve the problem.
The entire process will take less than a minute (excluding the time in queue, of course).
- In case of overseas Pakistanis or Pakistani residents carrying foreign SIMs on roaming, the fingerprint can also be verified by Nadra.
- In case of frequent travelers, the SIM once registered would not be required to be verified and authorized for roaming again and again.
- Pakistan residents may also have the ability to go to any cellular operator franchise and get a foreign SIM authorized for roaming in Pakistan. Similar facilities can be set up at sea, rail and road entry points into Pakistan like the Wagah border or road links from Afghanistan.
There will be certainly more traffic on the road borders than the airports and could be handled as such by an appropriate level of staffing at these facilities.