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War on terrorism may cause over 100m Pakistan mobile users to lose connections

War on terrorism may cause over 100m Pakistan mobile users to lose connections

ISLAMABAD:  A huge number of pre-paid mobile phone users in Pakistan may lose their connections since telecom operators have expressed their “inability” to re-verify the subscribers within a 28-day deadline set by the government.

The telecom operators had sought 150-200 more days for completion of the re-verification process.

Otherwise, they say, they will have to block the pre-paid SIMs (subscriber identification modules) to meet the deadline, Dawn online reported citing a source in the industry.

According to the source, there are about 140 million SIM cards in the country and only 10 percent of them are post-paid ones.

The interior ministry of Pakistan set the 28-day deadline after the December 16 Peshawar school attack during which the terrorists had used “biometric verified” SIM cards for communication.

The representatives of five operators — Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor, Warid and Zong — will hold a meeting this week with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Minister of State for IT and Telecommunication Anusha Rehman and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman  Ismail Shah to discuss and find a solution to the problem.

“The operators will apprise the government of their inability to re-verify over 100 million pre-paid SIM cards in such a short time. We will seek a realistic period for the purpose,” an official of a leading mobile phone company told Dawn.

He said the general public would be the ultimate sufferer if the SIM cards were blocked for a month.

“The affected persons will rush to customer sale centres, franchises and retailers to get post-paid SIM cards”, he added.

In order to stop the sale of illegal SIM cards, the PTA had introduced the biometric verification system about a year ago.

Although the cellular companies have installed the system at their customer sales centres, franchises and retailers, still there are complaints about the sale of illegal and unauthorised SIM cards.

But the companies claim that since the introduction of the biometric system, the sale of “illegal and unregistered SIM cards has not been possible any more”.