Over 40,000 Afghan SIMs active in Pakistan
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reveals a report, in which it claims that there are over 40,000 SIM cards of Afghan cellular phone companies being used in various parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) without showing the identity of the callers and mainly being used in crimes like bomb blasts, kidnappings and extortions.
NAB Deputy Prosecutor General (DPG) Muhammad Jamil Khan submitted the report to the bench of Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Asadullah Khan Chamkani. It was stated in the report that over 40,000 SIMs of different Afghan companies were being used in Fata and parts of the KP without showing the identity of the callers. It said that some SIMs had been activated through the Afghan phone cellular companies and others had obtained roaming facility from the Afghanistan-based firms.
On the other hand, the NAB report stated that they had not found any written agreement allowing the Afghan cellular phone companies to have roaming facility in Pakistan. Besides, it said the Pakistani companies had yet to provide services in various tribal agencies and, therefore, the people and militants were using the Afghan SIMs there.
The NAB report revealed that the Afghan SIMs were mainly used by militants for carrying out acts of terrorism, including remote-controlled blasts in the KP and Fata. It added that the SIMs were also used in criminal activities, including kidnappings for ransom and extortion.
During the hearing, the chief justice quoted a police report that an Afghan SIM had been used in the attack on police posts about three days ago when four policemen including two officers were killed in Peshawar.
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- An official of a cellular phone company informed the bench that they have given roaming facility to the Afghan firm as per the PTA rules and if the court wanted to withdraw the facility they were ready to do so. However, he said they would abide by all the steps taken by the government of Pakistan due to security reasons.
- Representative of one of the leading companies informed the bench that the cellular phone companies with the support of law-enforcing agencies and PTA were introducing a biometric system for issuing SIMs from January 2014.
- However, the bench could neither pass any directives nor proceed with the case as the owners of the cellular phone companies produced a copy of the Supreme Court order passed on October 21. In the short order, the Supreme Court had restrained the PHC from any proceedings in the cases till next order of the apex court.
The cellular phone companies have challenged the PHC orders regarding provision of Diyat amount to the families of the dead in case their unregistered SIMs were used in a blast. The court had issued bailable arrest warrants for non-compliance with the court’s orders and banned roaming facility for Afghan cellular phone companies in Pakistan.
NAB Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Director General Col (R) Shahzad Anwar Bhatti, Additional IG Police KP Mian Muhammad Asif, Deputy Attorney General Muhammad Iqbal Mohmand and officials of the PTA and Information Ministry appeared in the case.
The bench observed that it would be better if the KP government, through the advocate general, IGP and especially DIG Bomb Disposal Unit Shafqat Malik, appeared in the court to explain the situation. The bench adjourned the case till decision of the Supreme Court about the issue.