The identity credentials of around 44,943 international passengers have been stolen to unlock illegal or smuggled mobile phones.
These revelations were made by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) while briefing the Federal Cabinet which met with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair.
According to the presentation, the traveling documents i.e. Passport, CNIC copies etc of around 45,000 overseas Pakistanis who traveled to Pakistan were stolen and misused to unlock smuggled phones since the implementation of Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS).
According to PTA data, over around 986,000 mobiles phones were received for registration. Out of these around 656,000 were registered under FBR baggage rule exemption with no tax while around 33,000 mobile phones were registered under the duty paid category.
The data of 44,943 international travelers was stolen and misused for mobile registration and unlock illegal mobile phones.
On May 21, 2019, PTA reported 750 cases to FIA and FBR for further action. The individual involved was arrested by FIA in this case. On May 31, 2019, PTA reported 3,000 cases to FIA and FBR for action and the travel agent involved in data theft was arrested in Karachi.
On June 16, 2019, PTA reported 40,911 cases to FIA but the cases are still under process. 282 other cases were reported to FIA and FBR which are also under process. So a total of 44,943 such cases of data theft have been reported so far.
FIA arrested people from Karachi, Lahore and Gujarat in different cases. According to sources one government official sold 750 users’ data for Rs 500 each. A travel agent is also arrested who stole data of 1,328 people and registered mobile phones.
Airports share travelers data with 12 institutions these included Bureau of Immigration, FBR, NADRA, Directorate of Immigration and Passport, ISI, ISI Headquarter, MI, FIA, Ministry of Interior, IB, Punjab Police CTD, Punjab Police Special Branch and Special Security Division.
PTA has recommended continuing DIRBS while removing procedural flaws in the system. Furthermore, PTA has recommended a two-step upgraded verification which would reduce the lacunas in the system.
PTA has also recommended biometric verification/registration which is under discussion. The authority is closely cooperating with PTA and FIA to provide data of misuse of identity cases on a regular basis. Ongoing effective action by FIA will create deterrence. PTA has proposed the withdrawal of baggage rule which would help in addressing the issue.
A reduction in applicable duties and taxes on mobile phones has also been proposed. FBR may consider a reduction of applicable duties and taxes on mobile devices. It will take away incentives to use illegal means and will promote legal means to import mobile devices.
PTA has maintained that with the implementation of DIRBS a significant increase was seen in commercial import of mobile phones. In the long term, this system will give more dividends towards the elimination of smuggled phones.