Interior Ministry Wants to Re-Verify 140 Million Subscribers Through Biometric Verification in 28 Days

Interior Ministry has urged mobile phone companies to re-verify each and every mobile subscriber (somewhere around 140 million subscriptions) through newly installed biometric verification system (BVS) with-in 28 days and block all un-verified connections after the given deadline, according to our sources.

This was communicated to all five telecom operators in a meeting held yesterday at PTA headquarters. PTA, as a body that facilitates communication between telcos and government, told mobile phone companies of the wishes of Interior Ministry to which telcos said that the deadline of 28 days is simply impossible to meet.

One telco is even reported to have said in the meeting that shutting down their businesses in Pakistan is lot easier than re-verifying its entire customer base in 28 days.

Telcos have told PTA that verification of their user-bases in 28 days is an impossible task

As we told you yesterday, the issue of un-registered SIMs has been in spot light after recent attack on Army Public School in Peshawar. After finding out that there were five SIMs issued on a lady based out of Hasilpur in Southern Punjab, Ch. Nisar Khan, Minister for interior, had said that mobile phone companies should start a crackdown on unregistered SIMs.

It bears mentioning that since August 1st, 2014, all new SIMs and duplicate SIMs are issued after biometric verification of customers. However, old SIMs — that were already operating before August 1st, 2014 — aren’t verified through biometric verification system and they have now become the bone of contention.

The issue, highlighted after the Peshawer attack, has put the spotlight on old SIMs that were issued without biometric verification

Interior Ministry now wants telecom operators to arrange biometric re-verification of all SIMs in Pakistan, and only those connections that are re-verified should remain alive, while remaining all connections should be blocked for ever.

Telecom operators, who invested billions for the deployment of biometric verification system, are of the view that policy makers should come up with a well thought and comprehensive plan that should be the ultimate solution for complete elimination of un-registered SIMs.

They say that mobile phone companies are threatened time and again and are forced to invest repeatedly for similar initiatives (reference: banning pre-activated SIMs, setup of 789 call centres, 668 system and now biometric verification system) that are ultimately replaced with another new system.

Governments constantly changing requirements and unrealistic deadlines for compliance are starting to become a major issue for telecom operators in Pakistan

This has happened several times now during past 7 years. Telecom companies now want an ultimate and well tuned plan plus a guarantee from government that they won’t be asked again for a new kind of system in coming months just for the purpose of customer verification.

Telecom companies also stressed that deadline for removal of unregistered SIMs should be realistic so that everyone is able to contribute towards the elimination of un-registered SIMs.

Sources told ProPakistani that cellular companies are meeting Ms. Anusha Rehman, State Minister for IT and Telecom today to covey her industry’s concerns. Heads of mobile phone companies are scheduled to meet Mr. Nisar, Minister Interior, coming Saturday to finalize this plan for re-verifying all old and new SIMs through biometric verification system.

This is a developing story and will be updated as we get more information on it.

Tech reporter with over 10 years of experience, founder of ProPakistani.PK