Doing the same blunder, this time!

Currently, the government of Pakistan has tasked the cellular companies to get all SIMs verified through biometric verification machine within 90 days. It is no doubt a desperate need following the last months Peshawar school terror attack. Purpose of the SIMs verification is to control usage of illegal SIMs at the hands of militant groups, as has been reported in many of the terror activities across the country. How much authentic would be the data being collected presently by the cellular companies through biometric verifications, however, is a million dollars question. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the core telecom sector authority in the country, had done such exercises in the last couple of years. However, the result was nothing but a complete flop as today we are again talking of around 4.7 million illegal SIMs issued by the same cellular companies. As the SIMs biometric verification is in progress at the cellular companies centres, one can see long queues of consumers there waiting for hours for their turn to get their SIMs verified. But the PTA as well as the cellular companies ironically seem least bothered about all this problem and in no mood to own this process. Even if the biometric verification is done this time, no one can be sure about the authenticity of the mobile phone users data. There is still a big question to be answered as who would be responsible if this time again the data remains incredible and illegal SIMs continue to be used in public, rather by anti-state elements in the country. In past, the PTA in order to collect SIMs users data had introduced a couple of procedures like 668-SIM Information System and the 789 service. However, this initiative failed to deliver as the cellular companies had compiled the data provided by their consumers. This time too the same blunder is being done as the same companies are furnishing the data being provided by the consumers. At this critical stage when the local telecom sector is flooded with illegal SIMs, the PTAs job is not over by simply directing the cellular companies to complete biometric verification of all SIMs within a specified time period. There must be some authority that could ensure authenticity of the compiled data. Once the ongoing verification is over, PTA, FIA and IB are assigned to carry out joint technical audit of the system. Later, if any non-BVS verified SIM is detected, the respective mobile operator must be held responsible. But the story does not end here as, in case any data debacle hits the ground in future, then just fixing responsibility on any authority would be the solution? We need an error-free mechanism now.

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