SIM verification policy will do little to curb terrorism: Report

PESHAWAR ( MEDIA )

In the wake of a Taliban attack on an army-run school in Peshawar, which left over 130 students dead, the government announced a 20-point National Action Plan as part of measures to curb terrorism. The measures include compulsory biometric SIM registration of over 100 million people, with a warning that those who do not get fingerprinted to verify their identities would be rendered phoneless. However, according to a comment on Quartz, there are more effective policies that should have been appointed instead. The article states that as per a 2013 study conducted by Groupe Spéciale Mobile (GSM), there was “no empirical evidence to indicate that mandating registration of prepaid SIM users led to a reduction in criminal activities.” The same study found that the absence of a registration system did not indicate a greater risk of criminal or terrorist activities. The article goes on to state that the government has not clarified how it plans to use the data from the registrations as few details of the programme have been shared. So, while the benefits of the registration program are murky, the costs are quite clear. Retailers and telecom companies are finding it difficult to comply with the new rules in such a short time period. Cellphone users have been given till April 13 to verify their identities through fingerprints for the national database; a failure to do so would lead to a cut off from the cellular network an option unthinkable to many. Foreign investment in the telecom industry, which has been on the decline for several years, is just now starting to rebound but by adding more hurdles and requirements for telecom companies, there is a real risk that the new law could deter further growth. Compliance with the law is a challenge for ordinary citizens as well, especially those in rural areas where access to the retailers conducting registration is difficult.

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