More than four million ‘unidentified’ mobile phone SIMs are being used nationwide, mostly by extortionists, kidnappers for ransom, target killers and mafias in Karachi, and the government has started making efforts to block these SIMs to sever the communication links of criminals.
Meanwhile, at least one police station is being designated in every district of Karachi where FIRs would be registered against the dangerous criminals, netted during the targeted operation.
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been told by the intelligence agencies during briefings on the targeted campaign in Karachi that more than four million illegal SIMs are available in Pakistan, which are facilitating criminals in perpetrating their crimes by having fast communication,” a senior official, who attended these consultations, told The News.
Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid confirmed this and said that a swift solution was being found to cut off these contacts.In Saturday’s high-level meeting held in Lahore presided over by the prime minister on the Karachi situation, he did not order the blocking of the illegal SIMs, but “directed to ensure the finalisation of a strategy to block unregistered and illegal SIMs in consultation with the telecom operators in the country”, as per the official statement.
The official said that even today a SIM can be procured without producing the Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC). “While issuing the SIMs, their sellers write residential addresses of the ‘subscribers’ to keep their record straight while in reality no such addresses exit as they are fake and can’t be traced.”
He said the mobile phone operators were being asked not to hand over any SIM by hand, but deliver all cards at the residential addresses of the purchasers through courier. This is also done in foreign countries.
This way, the official said, the address of the person getting the SIM would be checked. He said in most heinous crimes being committed in Karachi, illegal “unidentified” SIMs were being used.
Another problem about which the government hasn’t yet talked about is the glut of special cell phones having no IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity) numbers, which are also being used by criminals in Karachi.
When such a set is used, it doesn’t convey to the telecom operator its technical details. In normal circumstance, an operator would immediately come to know about the IMEI number and other technical details of a phone the moment it would be used. However, the telecom operators are least bothered about the phones having no IMEI numbers because they are more concerned about the revenue coming from the use of their SIMs. Authorities have the technical capability to make a phone having the IMEI number trash quickly by blocking it.
In the past, any person can purchase any number of SIMs by producing a copy of anybody else’s CNIC, which can be fake or purchaser has simply found it on the road. The previous government started a process of verification of SIMs under which every person has to get his identity verified before activating his SIM. However, the SIMs issued before initiation of this process were never authenticated. The present government may verify all the SIMs under use by undertaking an intensive exercise, which, experts say, may not go beyond 40 days.
The official said that a prime reason behind not using stern measures to block illegal unidentified SIMs is the government’s decision not to send a negative signal to the telecom operators.However, not only the operators but the government also annually gets billions of rupees as revenue from the use of mobile phones.
He said the illegal unidentified SIMs would be cancelled during the process of their verification when their subscribers would not be located and where their addresses were not traced or turned out to be bogus.