Most blocked SIMs were dormant or used for grey trafficking. Anusha

ISLAMABAD (MEDIA )

The government defended the blocking of millions of unverified mobile phone SIM cards, saying that it was a long-standing demand of the law-enforcement agencies.

Responding to a calling-attention notice by Senator Kulsoom Parveen about the problems faced by the general public in biometric verification of their SIMs and the blockage of millions of unverified SIMs, Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman said the exercise had been mandated by the National Action Plan (NAP) and was not in violation of any law.

She said the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had started work on verification in January on the directions of the Interior Ministry and completed it on April 12. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and guidelines were prepared in consultation with all stakeholders, including cellular companies and law-enforcement agencies. She said all political parties were also consulted before finalising NAP.

She said 77,000 biometric machines were installed across the country and any severe action was avoided. She said a media campaign was also launched by the PTA to raise awareness among the people about their responsibility to get their SIMs verified.

Ms Rehman said that hundreds of thousands of the blocked SIMs were dormant. She said the blockage of unverified SIMs would not only help law enforcers fighting terrorism, but would also reduce grey traffic.

She said the SIMs that were blocked had not been blocked permanently and could be unblocked anytime after biometric verification.

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