The Peshwar High Court (PHC) has directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block the roaming facility of Afghan mobile users on Pakistan’s wireless networks, citing security concerns. The International News writes that the court claimed to receive authentic reports that an ‘enemy state’ and its secret agencies held controlling shares in cellcos in neighbouring Afghanistan, and that the use of Afghan SIMs on Pakistani networks represented a serious threat to the nation’s security. The court ruled that roaming facilities with Afghanistan would be lifted after an agreement had been signed between the two governments. Even then, only post-paid users would be permitted to roam, and would be subject to strict identification and verification rules. The bench claimed that around one million Afghan SIMs were in use in the parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and were being used in criminal activities. The court also directed the police and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take measures against wireless operators that were not enforcing SIM registration and activation protocols. For its part, the PTA may prove unable to follow up on the order. The watchdog has been inactive since the start of this year, when the three most senior officials at the regulator left office (one was ineligible for the position and was sacked, the other two reached the ends of their terms and resigned); subsequent government interference has kept the seats vacant.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that Afghanistan’s four cellcos, Telecom Development Company Afghanistan (Roshan), MTN Afghanistan, Etisalat Afghanistan and Afghanistan Wireless Communications Company (AWCC), are majority owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (Switzerland), MTN Group (South Africa), Etisalat (UAE) and Telephone Systems International (US) respectively.