SIM re-verification programme hits stumbling block

13 Feb 2015

The SIM re-verification programme, ordered by the government in the wake of a terrorist attack on a school in Peshawar in December last year, has encountered problems due to the lack of biometric data for large numbers of users, Pakistan Tribe writes. The current programme uses biometric verification to confirm the identity of customers to limit the availability of unregistered or falsely registered SIM cards to criminals, but no biometric data has been gathered for citizens with older National Identity Cards (NICs) issued before 2005, preventing them from verifying their SIMs cards. Customers are able to update their information with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) which issues the Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs), which replaced the NIC, but there appears to be some organisational confusion. Local reports claimed that users were being sent from one NADRA office to the next, the paper quoting one user as saying: ‘I have visited two offices of NADRA and they have referred me to another office. They say it will take three days to update the thumb impression, but what they don’t tell [is] how many days it will take to get to the right place, in front of the right people.’ So far, the loophole has not been mentioned in adverts or information released by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which is coordinating the re-verification programme, although the regulator has directed NADRA to give affected customers ‘special preference.’ The first deadline for re-verification is 26 February and effects all customers with more than three SIMs registered to their name. Any unverified SIMs will be blocked on the following day, whilst all other customers have until 13 April to complete the verification process.