Pakistan’s mobile providers have begun the gargantuan process of re-verifying around 103 million pre-paid SIM cards under the government’s National Action Plan to combat terrorism, the Nation writes. Under the plan, Mobilink, Telenor Pakistan, Ufone, Zong and Warid have 90 days to re-verify all pre-paid SIMs using the Biometric Verification System (BVS) introduced last year, which uses a thumbprint scanner to confirm the identity of customers, and any un-verified SIMs left at the end of that period will be blocked.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, the interior ministry ordered the re-verification after it was discovered that terrorists involved in the December attack on a school in Peshawar had used biometric-verified SIMs for communication. Although the initial plan called for a 28-day deadline, the interior ministry compromised on 90 days, the industry having requested a ‘realistic’ eleven months to carry out the task. A joint statement from the nation’s mobile providers noted that the industry has invested USD25 million in the provision of 60,000 BVS devices, as well as more than PKR22 billion (USD215.35 million) spent on the government’s previous SIM registration and verification programmes, the ‘668’ and ‘789’ processes in 2009 and 2011 respectively. The statement also called for the government to support the operator’s efforts to complete their ‘extremely challenging task’, requesting the ‘cooperation of law enforcement agencies… [and the] provision of security at services centres and BVS retailers across the country where [the] re-verification process is underway.’
Under the schedule set out by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), customers with three or more numbers registered to their Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) must re-verify their SIMs by 26 February 2015, with any unverified SIMs from this category to be blocked on 27 February. Users with fewer than three numbers registered to their CNIC have until 13 April to complete the process.