ISLAMABAD: The identity credentials of around 44,943 international passengers have been stolen to unlock illegal/smuggled mobile phones.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) made these revelations while briefing the federal cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan recently.
Documents state that travel documents such as Passport, CNIC copies etc of around 45,000 resident and overseas Pakistanis who travelled to Pakistan were stolen and misused to unlock smuggled phones since the implementation of Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS).
According to PTA, 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. While the data of 44,943 international travellers was stolen and misused for mobile registration and to unlock smuggled mobile phones.
On May 21, 2019 PTA reported 700 such cases to FIA and FBR for further action. The individual involved was arrested by FIA. On May 31, 2019, PTA reported another 3,000 cases of data theft to FIA and FBR for action and this time too the travel agent involved in data theft was arrested in Karachi, document added.
On June 16, 2019, PTA reported further 40911 cases to FIA and FBR for further action which are under process. Further 282 miscellaneous cases were reported to FIA and FBR for further action and the cases are 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 data of 750 travellers at the rate of Rs 500/ traveller. Further a travel agent is also being arrested who stole data of 1,328 people for registration of mobile phones.
Airports usually share travellers data with 12 institutions which include 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 to continue with DIRBS while removing procedural flaws in the system. Further PTA has recommended two step upgraded verification which would reduce the lacunas in the system.
PTA has further recommended biometric verification/registration which is under discussion. PTA is closely cooperating with FBR and FIA for providing data of misuse of identity cases on a regular basis. Ongoing effective action by FIA will create deterrence. Further PTA has also proposed to withdraw baggage rule which would help in addressing the issue.
PTA has also proposed reduction in applicable duties and taxes on mobile phones. FBR may consider reduction of applicable duties and taxes on mobile devices so as to reduce incentive to use illegal means.
PTA has maintained that with the implementation of DIRBS significant increase is seen in the legal commercial import of mobile phones. In long term this system will give more dividends towards elimination of smuggled phones.