To curb the illegal and untraceable SIM cards in Pakistan, thus to control terrorism in the country, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has ordered Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) in the country to present only biometrically verified data of the monthly subscribers. As a result, the mobile phone user base in the country got reduced by around 20 million.
Pakistan had 135.8 million users by the end of December 2014. This data got reduced to115.4 million by the end of June 2015 after Biometric Verification System (BVS).
The operator Mobilink lost 4.5 million users, which amounts to 12 percent of its subscribers due to BVS system. It still holds the top position in terms of mobile subscribers with 34 million users by the end of June.
Telenor stands at the second position with 31.4 million users. The provider lost around 14% of its users after BVS. Zong stays at the third position with 22.7 million active SIMs after losing 3.6 million users or 14 percent of its users.
Ufone and Warid are the two operators who lost heavily, around 20 percent and 21 percent respectively. Ufone now has 17.6 million users, whereas Warid has 9.8 million subscribers.
The new system of BVS was enforced after an unfortunate incident of Taliban militants attack that killed 150 students and teachers at an army school in Peshawar district in December 2014. The six terrorists in the incident were found to be using mobile phones registered in the name of a woman, who had no connection to the incident.
The telecom industry in Pakistan invested around $25 million to install 60,000 BVS devices across country and another Rs. 22 billion on verification and re-verification exercises. Verification process includes the process of collecting personal data such as mother’s name, place of birth etc., which will be verified by National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). Once the verification is successful, the SIM will come under the category of temporarily verified SIM cards. Re-verification is conducting the BVS verification. The deadline given to CMOs to conduct verification and re-verification was April 12.
PTA has issued a date of 31 March 2016 as deadline to conduct the BVS verification of temporary verified SIM cards.
The blocked SIM cards will not be issued to any other subscribers at least for a year. The subscriber can perform his verification during this period to get his/her card unblocked. For those SIM cards owned by an overseas Pakistan citizen, but not used by him/her should perform a ‘Change of ownership’ to the name of a family member as per the order. A proof of relationship with the owner needs to be submitted in such cases.