–40% mobile phones imported through grey channels, Senate standing committee told
ISLAMABAD: Senate’s Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunications Chairperson Rubina Khalid on Wednesday said that the 30-day margin for registering a new mobile bought from abroad was less and must be extended to 60 days, as the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) started blocking smuggled mobile phones and internet devices across the country after the deadline for registration ended on January 15.
Senators Fida Muhammad, Muhammad Tahir Bizenjo, Ghous Muhammad Khan Niazi, Engineer Rukhsana Zuberi, Sana Jamali, Taj Muhammad Afridi, Molana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh, Faisal Javed and senior officers from the Ministry of IT (MoIT), Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) were present on this occasion.
Senator Khalid suggested making the Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) programme workable so that both the government and the people of Pakistan benefit from it. It was imperative that duties be rationalised, she added.
On this occasion, the officials of MoIT, PTA and Pakistan Customs briefed the meeting about streamlining the process for collection of customs duty on cell phones on arrival at airports and extension of time period to block unregistered IMEI cell phones.
The committee showed displeasure over the lack of awareness of the PTA regarding this issue.
Senator Faisal Javed said that imposing high taxes on mobiles being brought in Pakistan from abroad was pointless unless Pakistan established its own local industry.
Senator Ateeq Shaikh recommended that to protect the common man from being fleeced, it was imperative that mobiles being brought for commercial use be segregated from those being brought for personal utility.
Senator Fida Muhammad probed the panel regarding revenue generation by this measure. The committee was informed that since 40% mobiles enter the country through grey channels, this measure will generate huge revenue for the country. The committee was also informed that taxes would be charged in three slabs (less than USD 60, more than USD 60 and USD 130 and more).
Objecting to the measure, Senator Taj Muhammad Afridi said that international duty structure must be followed. He recommended that the finance minister be present in the next meeting.
PTA STARTS BLOCKING UNREGISTERED PHONES:
Meanwhile, PTA has started blocking smuggled mobile phones and internet devices.
As the deadline of Jan 15, to pay tax and register imported mobile phones passed, the devices are being blocked.
The decision to extend the deadline to block such mobile phones was not extended as the notification was not issued by the government.
An automatic blocking system has been placed on the devices due to which the stolen or mobile phone having double IMEI numbers cannot be used.
The PTA had launched DIRBS to curb illegal imports. The system has been made operational in December 2018.
Any mobile devices reflecting non-compliant status after October 20, 2018, were to be blocked as per PTA/DIRBS regulations.
The system is aimed to facilitate legitimate device importers and mobile device users, and improve overall security situation.