The issue of illegal SIMs has continued for months and as a consequence we have seen the frequent blocking of cellular services linked to security concerns including the use of mobile phones for illegal activities, terrorism included. It is believed that controlling the use of SIMs could prevent this. With past efforts to do so having failed, the SC bench hearing the Karachi law and order case, has directed the PTA, cellular phone companies and intelligence agencies to set up a task force to look into the issue. Previous such task forces have not been particularly successful and have hardly played any more of an effective role than inquiry committees set up with equal frequency. We can only hope that this time around things will work out better. Certainly, the SC directions are clear; mobile service providers are to be limited in the number of SIM cards they can activate in a single day and the task force is to check out NICs against which ten or more SIMs have been issued. We are told there are a large number of these; a limit of five SIMs against one identity card number is to be set. The provinces have also been asked to nominate a focal person to sit on the task force to provide input.
The bringing together of all players involved in the mobile phone misuse problem is obviously a good step. How effectively it will work is hard to say. The tens of thousands of illegal SIM cards that reportedly still exist in our country despite attempts to govern their use is quite obviously a problem. The law and order menace as a whole also has to be considered. All aspects regarding it need to be dealt with as part of a wider strategy if it is to be brought under control. Steps such as the setting up of the special task force can help, and may lead us towards a situation where it is not necessary to close down all mobile services on specific days. This, no doubt, inconveniences millions. But on their own, SIM cards are not responsible for terrorism. The matter must be linked with other strands in the thread if we are to put together a comprehensive database of all those owning SIM cards so that we can identify them and also assess which cards are being used for illegitimate purposes in a country that is fast plunging towards anarchy. The success of the task force could play an essential role in providing an escape from the mayhem we live in today.