Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) informed the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication on Friday that it blocked around 732,000 illegal Subscriber Identity/Identification Modules (SIMs) during 2021 so far.
However, the committee meeting that was chaired by Ali Khan Jadoon, expressed dissatisfaction over the action taken against the illegal use of the SIMs, directing the PTA and National Data & Registration Authority (NADRA) chairmen to appear before the body with a comprehensive plan of action in that regard.
The committee observed that the illegal SIM cards were a threat to the county’s security. The chairman said, “We want to end the issue of illegal SIMs as soon as possible, as these are threatening the national security, but the departments concerned are not cooperating with us.”
The representatives informed the committee that the PTA had introduced stringent measures to check the illegal SIMs, and problems had been considerably reduced.
The committee directed PTA and NADRA to devise a comprehensive mechanism to check the sale/issuance of illegal SIMs as it was posing threat to national security as well as the privacy of citizens. It further directed PTA to devise a system in collaboration with NADRA for the closure of SIMs issued in the name of deceased persons.
The parliamentary panel expressed serious concerns over the lack of steps to stop the illegal sale of SIMs.
With reference to the committee recommendations made in its previous meetings, the committee expressed its displeasure over the lethargy of departments concerned in devising a system for the closure of illegal SIMs. The committee also directed that Director General FIA ensure his presence in the next meeting.
The PTA representatives informed the committee that NADRA, being the custodian of national data, had agreed to share the data of deceased persons with PTA. They added that the SIMs issued in their names would be blocked forthwith. He said the PTA had also taken punitive action against mobile operators whose sales centers or franchises were found involved in the issuance of SIMs without fulfilling mandatory requirements and verification.
“We have directed the mobile operators not to issue SIMs without biometric verification,” he underlined.
Member National Assembly, Sher Ali Arbab, was also critical of the PTA for not solving the issue of the illegal SIMs. He said, “We have been hearing the same briefing for many months, as no concrete steps have been taken by the authority to settle the issue.” He was of the view that the chairman of the committee must take action against those officials who were summoned and did not appear to brief the body.
The lawmakers were of the view that all the fraudulent activities were being carried out through these illegal SIMs.
Member Naz Baloch suggested establishing special cyber units in the police stations for the registration of complaints. She also recommended empowerment of the Cybercrime Department by employing more staff as the existing strength was insufficient to handle the growing cases of cybercrimes.
Federal Secretary IT, Dr. Sohail Rajput, told the committee that the social media rules had been revised. “Rules have been updated which will be notified soon,” he added.
Member Legal said that Section 51 had been added to the rules and the cabinet had approved the revised social media rules.
The Chair directed that the revised social media rules should be provided to the committee.
Ali Gohar, a member of the committee, said the committee should be briefed again about the revised social media rules. Legislation may be made in such a way that people do not commit cybercrimes, he added. He said a comprehensive briefing on cybercrime-related legislation should be held.
The chairman asked the PTA officials to share national policy on cybercrime with the members of the committee in the next meeting.