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Afghan SIM cards blocked in Pakistan

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Criminals and terrorists in Pakistan will find it difficult to carry out their acts of terror now that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has blocked Afghan based subscriber identity module (SIM) cards from access to roaming services.

The move by the PTA came at the end of November. Prior to that, on August 1, the government started requiring call centres, franchises and authorised dealers to have every customer scan his or her Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) and thumbprint into biometric machines as part of the process of buying SIM cards.

Setback to terrorist communications

Blocking services to Afghan SIM cards is a major blow to criminals and terrorists, who rely heavily on them to carry out their nefarious acts.

"The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has set up its headquarters far away on the Afghanistan border in tribal areas and their criminal activities are carried out through Afghan SIM cards," Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Inspector General of Police (IGP) Nasir Khan Durrani said according to Dawn November 2.

"The PTA has been co-operating with law enforcement agencies to ensure that SIM cards of different cellular phone companies are not used for terrorism and other crimes," said PTA Assistant Director Muhammad Jawad during a hearing at the Peshawar High Court (PHC) December 3.

The agency has been helping the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) raid areas with high concentrations of illegal SIM cards, he added.

"The PTA has taken the decision in compliance with directives from the Federal Home Department," PTA spokesman Khurram Ali told Central Asia Online.

"The PTA is fully co-operating with law enforcement agencies ... in the fight against terrorism and recently introduced a biometric mobile SIM verification system to stop misuse of mobile phones in incidents of terrorism," he said.

Apart from supporting the raids, the PTA blocked about 8.2m unregistered SIM cards, he added.

Pakistanis welcome decision

Officials and security analysts are hailing the government for its decision.

"This is a welcome development," Brig. Gen. (ret.) and security analyst Mehmood Shah said, adding that it should have come much earlier. He added that he would like to see further efforts, such as more controls over cellular companies operating in Pakistan.

Senator Haji Ghulam Ali also lauded the step, saying that miscreants commonly used Afghan SIM cards to commit extortion.

Security forces have long wanted the move, he said, adding that now they can fight militancy and extortion more effectively.

This article was originally published on ­Central Asia Online

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Tags: roaming  sim card  Pakistan  Afghanistan