PHC directs PTA to block unregistered Afghan SIMs
The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block the unregistered SIMs of all cellular companies operating in the country and Afghan SIMs activated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas within 15 days.
A two-member bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Nisar Hussain issued the directives to the PTA in a writ petition of a franchiser of a cellular company, seeking blocking of all unregistered SIMs of the cellular companies in Pakistan and activation of SIMs in thousands of Afghan cellular companies in the country, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata as these were being used in extortion, kidnapping for ransom and terrorism cases.
- The bench also directed the PTA to block all the unregistered SIMs within 15 days, otherwise it would pay the tax or duties worth billions of rupees from its own fund as the unregistered SIMs were causing loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer.
- The court also directed the owners of the companies to provide complete data of the last 5 years regarding issuance of SIMs and revenue generated by them in the country.
- The bench also asked the PTA to submit a separate written reply after conducting survey of active SIMs of the companies and their total number in KP. It also asked under what authority of law these Afghan SIMs had been activated here without observing the International Protocol.
- In addition, the bench summoned IGP, chief secretary, secretary Home and Tribal Affairs of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and additional chief secretary Fata on next hearing and asked them submit record of registered and unregistered cases of extortion and kidnapping for ransom of the last five years.
- The court also asked the respondent officials to explain in the reply that how many abducted persons were recovered and how much ransom was given to the kidnappers.
Muhammad Atif Haleem, a franchiser of a cellular company, had filed a writ petition in the high court supported by certain documents submitted before the bench that the cellular companies operating in the country have sold out millions of SIMs without paying duties and taxes. He questioned how it was possible that such a large number of SIMs were taken away from the companies premises without notice of the officers of Revenue Department.
He submitted that these unregistered SIMs were being used for extortion, kidnapping for ransom and terrorism, which was not only a great threat to the national security but also to the citizens. He contended that the Afghan cellular companies’ SIMs are directly activating in Pakistan, particularly in KP and Fata, because different cellular companies in Pakistan have given a free hand to the Afghan companies without keeping in view the International Protocol on subject under the garb of roaming facility.