A huge number of illegal mobile phones are at high risk of being blocked by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) from Saturday after the expiry of 60 days deadline, as Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) has become operational.
Customs and PTA officials have confirmed that all phones imported after January 15, 2019, but were neither registered through DIRBS nor had their taxes/duties paid would be blocked from March 16, 2019, after the expiry of the 60-day deadline.
As per the policy, the mobile phone would not be blocked automatically for 60 days and one has to register it with PTA during this period after paying duty/taxes (in case more than one phone).
Initially, there was a 30-day limit for registering a mobile phone with PTA after its import. It was later increased to 60 days on the recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Telecommunication.
According to the PTA, illegal phones that do not come with a valid IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number will be blocked after the expiry of the deadline.
Customs officials revealed that around 34,000 mobile phones have registered through the DIRBS system so far, where Rs. 1.5 million was collected in taxes on 116 mobile handsets. As per the policy, one mobile phone is allowed duty free per year but for more than one phones, you’ll have to pay taxes.
The Senate standing committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication, in its last meeting held on Wednesday, recommended revisiting the mobile taxation slabs as well as withdrawing the one mobile handset per year policy to facilitate passengers. The Committee strongly opposed the imposition of taxes on bringing more than one mobile phone to Pakistan and recommended that this policy be revisited.
According to the customs general order (CGO), 1 of 2019; PTA shall provide an online application service whereby a web-based user interface utility can be accessed by international travelers for hassle-free registration and payment of duties/taxes against mobile devices imported in their baggage. This utility may also be accessed through franchises of cellphone operators.
The utility will guide the applicant about the information required to be submitted for online registration of mobile devices.
The system, in particular, will require the applicant/traveler to submit the details of passport number, computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) number, International Motile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number etc. The said information submitted by the applicant will be auto-processed/validated through WeBOC. The mobile devices will accordingly be cleared by the system in accordance with admissible allowances under the Baggage Rules, whereby the first mobile phone in a year will be allowed registration/whitelisting in DIRBS free of duty/taxes.
PTA’s website says: “As per custom baggage rule, an International traveler can avail duty/tax exemption on one mobile device in a calendar year.”
As per directives issued by the federal government, all mobile devices which are already activated on cellular mobile networks within Pakistan by 15th January, 2019 shall remain operational without service disruption. Even non-compliant devices in operation prior to this date have been tied to these numbers and would remain operational till the useful life of the device.
PTA developed/established DIRBS, in line with Telecom policy 2015, issued by Ministry of Information Technology & Telecom, section 9.6 with the aim to curtail the counterfeit mobile phone usage, discourage mobile phones theft and protect consumer interest.