The state of security in our country is brought home to us again and again. We see it each time we cross a picket standing on a road or go through the multiple checks at airports and even hotels. With the use of illegal or unregistered SIM cards seen as a key element in the cycle of crime and terrorism, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has announced new measures to try and stop this misuse. With immediate effect, anyone obtaining a new SIM in Karachi or Balochistan will need, after producing their CNIC card, to give a thumb impression. This biometric data will then be instantaneously matched against records on the Nadra database, to ensure that a fake identity card has not been used.
Such ‘real time’ matching of data could go a long way in helping control the use of unregulated SIMs – and in theory at least eventually spare us the repeated shut-down of mobile phone services that affect millions of users. We must also hope the new system works smoothly, without technical issues, notably in Balochistan, so that mobile phone users do not end up facing prolonged bureaucratic delays or inconvenience. But it is good to see modern technology being used as a means to improve security. Indeed all that this has to offer needs to be expanded into other areas of crime and terrorism control, including police working and the process of gathering evidence. The initiative taken by the PTA should help show how well a system of biometric testing can work on a large scale. In many ways it is sad that we live today in a country that has become so unsafe that these measures are required. We cannot however escape our reality. Using the new means available to us to improve our security and protect ourselves against violence seems to be a very wise step. The coming months will tell us just how well it has worked.