The Senate Standing committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication have recommended yet another extension in the deadline for blocking unregistered mobile phones, as Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has yet to set up an online portal and international travelers would continue to suffer in long ques.
The committee met with Rubina Khalid in the chair on Tuesday where Ministry of IT, PTA and Member Custom briefed the committee about streamlining the process of collecting customs duty on cell phones on arrival at all airports and extending the deadline for blocking un-registered cell phones as directed by the committee in its last meeting.
PTA officials said that their system for online mobile registration for overseas Pakistanis is yet to be completed and people have to visit customs offices for paying taxes/duty for registration of mobile devices till the launch of web-based online registration system. However, they said that the system is likely to be launched by January 25.
The committee expressed annoyance that the system has not been put in place while PTA is going for DIRBS implementation. Launch the system first and tally its results after which the policy would be implemented, senators added.
The committee recommended for a further extension till the online system is fully operational. Federal Minister for IT&T Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui assured the committee that the matter would be reconsidered.
Officials from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) informed the committee that the Cabinet Division would be required to move a summary to the federal cabinet while seeking a further extension in the deadline.
The committee also expressed serious concerns over huge duties on mobile import/personal use and recommended a uniform duty structure to bring mobile prices at par with other countries.
Parliamentarians further stated that with the increase in duties, it is expected that the government’s business/revenue may further decline in coming days.
“With the implementation of DIRBS, a new wave of inflation is going to hit the country as the price of a mobile phone of Rs. 2000 will reach Rs. 8000, which would directly hit the poor segment of the society”, observed senators from the government as well as opposition.
As per the policy, mobile phones would not be blocked automatically for 30 days and one has to register it with PTA during this period after paying duty/taxes (in case more than one phone is imported), however the committee recommended that this period is very short while keeping in view the extremely poor awareness campaign by PTA and should be extended to 60 days.
The officials’ viewpoint was seconded by the committee that the DIRBS system is good for controlling smuggled phones, increasing revenue as well as controlling terrorism.
Member Custom informed the committee that prior to its launch on 01-12-2018, FBR had notified the general public about the procedure for registration of mobile devices brought by international passengers in their accompanied baggage.
Under the said procedure, international passengers were provided an option to get their phone registered either at Customs Kiosks available at the international airports or at the nearest customs office in the city. More than 37,000 mobile devices have been registered till date.
However, in order to further facilitate the international passengers, FRB and PTA, in coordination cellular mobile operators, are exploring technological solutions whereby passengers are not required to interface with Customs at any stage for the registration/regularization of mobile devices imported in accompanied baggage.
The tentative features of this solution are:
- Registration through the CMOS –franchise outlets
- Registration of the devices online
- Registration of devices through USSD codes
The payment of duties/taxes can be made through all major banks, online banking, CMO franchises, and mobile wallets. The aforementioned facilities are likely to be operational in the last week of January 2019.