The interior ministry has directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and other law enforcement agencies to initiate a crackdown and strict legal action against those who register Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMs) cards under false identities. Intelligence agency reports reveal that the telecommunications sector is involved in the sale of illegal SIMs.
An intelligence agency report forwarded to police and other law enforcement agencies revealed that the illegal sale of SIMs is being carried out in collusion with individuals within the telecommunications sector.
The report alleges that copies of ID cards provided by customers at franchise outlets are also being used by some franchise owners for sale and activation purposes.
Personal data for the activation of these SIMs was also obtained from a voters list of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The crackdown follows recent arrests of gangs from different parts of the country for their involvement in the sale of illegal SIMs, which are subsequently used by alleged terrorists and kidnappers, sources familiar with the matter told media.
Recently, a gang was arrested in Sargodha for selling illegal SIMs. One of those arrested had managed to register three SIMs using the CNIC details of DCO Sargodha, Azmat Mehmood.
In most cases, people who were arrested from Sargodha, Peshawar and Bahawalpur had sold SIMs to alleged terrorists, especially those involved in incidents of kidnapping for ransom and terrorism in Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, sources said.
According to reports, the accused activated SIMs using names from voter lists and NADRA kiosk data, with registrations of names of residents of Karachi and Sindh and then sold them to criminals and foreigners at high prices.
Smuggling activated SIM cards to K-P and FATA followed a ban imposed by the Home and Tribal Affairs Department on the sale of all illegal SIMs.
To this effect, the department asked the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and divisional commissioners in K-P to direct district coordination officers (DCOs) to impose Section 144.
Police in Sarghoda arrested six suspects in the second week of October alone.
The men arrested in Sargodha had allegedly registered 250,000 SIMs using information from Sargodha residents and sold them around the country.
One of the phones was used to register 17,365 SIMs, while the other was used to register 10,465 SIMs.
Another group selling illegal SIMs was arrested from Peshawar on October 15.
Similarly, the Bahawalpur Police have arrested three accused and recovered 30 mobile phone sets and a huge quantity of SIMs activated on the particulars of various people after they photo copied CNICs and data obtained from voter lists of the ECP.
One of the accused, Muhammad Ahmad, revealed that they had supplied about 8,000 to 10,000 activated illegal SIMs every month to different parts of the country especially Quetta and Karachi.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2012.