Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) airport employees have also been involved in stealing the travel data used by passengers to register new mobile phones, the agency’s cyber crime director told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.
Afzal Butt told the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication. “While travel agents were stealing the documents of passengers returning from Umrah, three FIA officials at the airport have also come under scrutiny for selling passenger details on the black market,”
The committee had met for a briefing by the FIA and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on the illegal registration of mobile devices and the misuse of travellers’ data meant for the registration of mobile phones under the Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS).
The chairman PTA said that government had reduced taxes on mobile phones imports and was still considering further reduction in it. The PTA supports reduction in taxes on mobile phone imports to make it more affordable and to remove attraction in illegal mobile imports.
The chairman PTA said that cellular mobile companies were interested in giving handsets to customers with SIMs (where no other SIMs/services of other companies could be used) on easy payment schedules, but they feared challenges in recovery and that was why they were hesitant. The committee appreciated the idea, while observing that it would be helpful in reducing mobile phone smuggling, as it was already applicable in other countries. He further said that PTA had adopted a two-step authentication process which would help in overcoming mobile phone registration through illegal ways
“The phone blocking system is draconian and ridiculous. This is the only country in the world where everything is becoming harder for citizens every day and the noose around their necks is ever tightening. The system has failed to curb the smuggling of mobile handsets, the very purpose for which it was developed,” committee chair Senator Rubina Khalid said.
Senator Rehman Malik reminded Senator Khalid that she has the power to suspend the system. He added: “This is a flawed system and should be removed completely.”
Officials from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) reminded the committee that, effective July 1, Pakistanis travelling from abroad cannot bring a single phone duty-free.