PTA Fails to Audit The Authenticity of Biometric Verification of SIMs

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is yet to make public the audit results for mobile subscribers’ data that were verified during the Biometric Verification System (BVS) drive in May 2015.

Even after 18 months, PTA hasn’t made any announcement on the matter, we have checked with sources.

A PTA Spokesperson confirmed to ProPakistani that audit results of biometric verification of SIMs are not issued yet.

  • Pakistan prepared National Action Plan after APS Peshawar incident
  • Biometric Verification of all Active, inactive SIMs in Pakistan was made part of National Action Plan
  • With BVS, all SIMs were to be re-verified after biometric verification of SIM owners
  • All SIMs that were not re-verified were suspended / made inactive
  • After completion of re-verification drive, it was decided to conduct a third-party audit to make sure that entire process was fool proof
  • Even after 18 months, audit report is still pending
  • Any loopholes, if found, could hamper National Action Plan

PTA had announced it would make public the results of third-party audit after the completion of the process. Furthermore, it proposed strict action against telecom operators if they were found to be involved in submitting wrong SIM data including show-cause notices and heavy penalties as per the law.

However, according to sources, the process is not completed and the results still aren’t public, despite the passage of long time.

The verification of SIMs through BVS was made part of the National Action Plan (NAP) to avoid misuse.

After the conclusion of BVS drive, the Interior Ministry had directed the PTA to carry-out a third party audit of the whole exercise to verify its authenticity. The Authority had reportedly asked the Interior Ministry to give the task of audit to any probing agency; however the request was turned down.

After some delay, PTA sought Expression of Interest (EoI) for hiring of a third party auditor and later selected Secure Tech consultancy firm for third-party audit of mobile subscribers’ data.

Secure Tech is reportedly run by an ex-Army officer who also served as Chairman NADRA.

After getting required clearance from intelligence agencies, PTA signed an agreement with the firm to carry out audit of SIMs verified through BVS.

Due to security concerns, international consultancy firms were not invited, however 14 local firms had expressed an interest in the exercise.

The subscribers of a telecom operator increased by about one million during March-April, at a time when the sale of new SIMs was banned at retailers, which raised question marks on the credibility of BVS drive, said sources, adding that the number of subscribers of other telecom operators declined during this period.

PTA had then taken serious note of the alleged discrepancies in SIMs data submitted by telecom companies after the BVS drive and had directed all telecom operators to provide monthly subscribers information.

Out of target of 103 million active SIMs, 75.5 million SIMs were re-verified through BVS while 27.5 million active SIMs were blocked by 15th May 2015 which brought down the number of active SIMs from 139 million to 111.5 million.

According to the latest data of PTA, Mobile phone users in Pakistan reached 134.91 million at the end of October 2016 from 134.41 million at the end of September 2016, registering an increase of around 0.5 million during last one month.

The number of 3G and 4G users in Pakistan reached 35.45 million at end of October against 34.32 million at end of September 2016.

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