PTA defies Interior Ministry on SIMs

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The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has reiterated its earlier stance that up to 10 subscriber identity module (SIMs) can be issued on one Computerised National Identity Card.
It is also pertinent to note that PTA is not going to adhere to the orders of the interior ministry which has issued instructions that only one SIM can be issued against one CNIC. Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik in a meeting with the heads of all cellular companies, PTA Chairman, MoITT Secretary, Provincial Home Secretaries, Federal Interior Secretary, Chief Commissioner, IGP Islamabad, and representatives of intelligence agencies and FIA on April 19 ordered the concerned authority including cellular companies to issue only one SIM on one CNIC.
The federal minister was relatively firm in his intention and indicated he was not willing to accommodate reservations voiced by cellular companies in this regard but he seems to have been stymied in this regard. It seems that the regulator has bowed down to the cellular companies because they would face the loss of 62 million subscribers who are registered on multiple CNICs and only 42 million subscribers the industry has who are registered on single ID cards, sources in the industry said.
This came in the backdrop of the PTA chairman’s statement on the occasion of Connect ICT Forum 2011 at Karachi Expo Centre in which he claimed that there would be not contraction in the number of subscribers as a result of the current regulatory campaign. PTA stated in its recently issued ‘Subscriber Antecedents Verification Regulations’ that according to the regulation, the cellular subscribers shall be entitled to purchase maximum up to 10 SIMs of one operator provided that the data are verified properly, otherwise unverified SIM will be blocked.
However, the authority said that cellular operators are solely responsible when selling a SIM to any individual by any means with an assurance of complete verification of user antecedents at the time of activation. The regulations stated that cellular operators shall be entitled to sell SIM(s) only through their customer service centers, franchises and authorised agents and their complete details will be provided to authority from time to time. All sale agreement with customers shall be properly stamped by the authorised agent at the time of SIM sale and purchase.
It is noteworthy that the PTA has emphasised in the notice that the subscriber would be responsible for any crime or wrongful activity carried out through his SIM. Sources indicated that the onus of responsibility is again placed on the subscriber and the whole hue and cry of the regulator in the name of regulatory campaign was another attempt to placate the interior ministry and law enforcement agencies.

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