Pakistan’s PM Raja Pervez Ashraf has blocked the recent decisions of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) banning mobile number portability (MNP) and overhauling the system of SIM sales and distribution, Pro Pakistani reports. Earlier this month, the PTA – under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior – halted the porting of numbers from one operator to another and ordered cellcos to cease selling SIMs through storefronts, retailers and franchises from 1 December, citing security concerns over the misuse of mobile phones in criminal activities.
The decisions, made in the midst of increasingly frequent blackouts of cellular services – again at the instruction of the Interior Ministry – met fierce opposition in the local press. The prime minister lifted the ban on MNP arguing that the system currently in place was secure but added that a system of handset verification be put in place. Ashraf has reportedly instructed officials from customs, security agencies and the IT ministry to ensure that all handsets carry a unique international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) number: devices without IMEI numbers, or duplicate codes will be banned.
On the SIM front, the PM has compromised, allowing operators to sell cards from their own stores after receiving the go-ahead from the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) as before, however, the sale of SIMs will require customers to verify their identity through biometric devices reading a thumb print. Cellcos will be allowed to continue selling SIMs, but will be required to install biometric devices within two months whilst other retailers will not be able to resume sales until the devices are installed.