Sir: As expected, the prime minister’s recent announcement to block all ‘unregistered’ cell phone SIMs went completely unheeded. As the vague announcement did not clarify what kind of SIM would be considered unregistered, everyone thought it best to ignore the statement until something more specific was agreed upon. The misuse of SIMs is deeply related to crime and militancy. Regrettably, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has failed to control and link each SIM with a specific owner. Estimates of illegal SIMs vary between five to twenty million. Conducting a short snap survey on five persons sitting in one room, we found that three had more SIMS shown by PTA records as compared to what they actually possessed and two had less SIMS than what was reflected in the PTA records. One can safely conclude that there are gross errors in the PTA’s records in terms of SIMs and their legitimate owners. This is despite the fact that this information and control is vital to Pakistan’s fight against crime and militancy.
Concerned about their profits, the telecommunication companies drag and delay the blocking of SIMS. Itself on a slippery wicket, the PTA has not been able to exercise sufficient control over these greedy companies and, at times, it appears that the two operate hand in glove. Can the government get more serious on this issue, revamp the PTA and make sure it forces the telecommunication companies to block every SIM that cannot be proved to belong to a specific individual? If the government is serious, it should limit only one SIM per person.