PESHAWAR - Peshawar High Court (PHC) Wednesday directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to stop roaming facility of the cellular companies of Afghanistan in Pakistan within 15 days, as it is helping the criminals and terrorists in their activities.

The court also issued bailable arrest warrants for the chief executives and general managers of all the cellular service providers operating in Pakistan for non-compliance with the court order to appear and explain their position about issuance of illegal SIMs by their companies in thousands, as such SIMs are being used in heinous crimes like kidnapping and murder as well as in terrorism acts.

A two-member bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Malik Manzoor Hussain directed them to appear in court on October 23 by furnishing bail bonds of worth Rs500, 000 in the court. On September 20, the PHC had taken suo moto notice of the illegal and unregistered mobile SIMs being used in the province. During Wednesday’s hearing, the court directed the PTA to stop roaming facility of the cellular companies of Afghanistan in Pakistan within two week. The two member bench said that the ban would be lifted after proper agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan and their cellular companies.

The court observed that only post-paid users of the companies would be allowed to get roaming facility in Pakistan after their proper identification and verification. The court also directed the PTA, and federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to first make the process transparent with the Afghan government and then allow the post-paid users only with complete verification of identity.

Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan remarked: “Don’t compel the court to take strict action”. The court said that illegal and Afghan SIMs were mostly being used in crimes. The chief justice observed that Afghan mobile SIMs were being used in 90 percent crimes. The SIMs were being sold like ‘potatoes and tomatoes’. He said Pakistan does not need such foreign investors who are tax defaulters and weaken the bases of the country. The court said that such SIMs are not even available in African countries.

The court observed that it looked like the cellular companies were no more in control of the PTA. The bench directed the police and FIA to charge those officers and owners of the cellular companies under the cyber crimes who were responsible for illegal businesses. He said they should be booked under criminal laws and heavy penalties should be imposed on them.

The division bench also issued notices to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government through chief secretary, provincial police officer, and director generals of NAB, ISI and FIA to appear in person on next hearing and show what steps they have taken about this serious issue in light of the court’s directives and relevant laws. The court also directed the PTA to keep strict monitoring on activated SIMs and block all the unregistered and fake SIMs being used in the country. The bench ordered that any lethargy on part of any authority would be taken seriously because this issue was related to the security of the state and the citizens.

The court also accepted application of the Peshawar High Court Bar Association (PHCBA) filed for making it party to the case in order to assist the court over the issue.

During the course of hearing, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Muhammad Iqbal Muhmand, representing the federal government, submitted that both the Islamabad and Peshawar officers of PTA were doing nothing about the issue as even they have not been able to stop a fake number issued on his CNIC to a lady in two months.

Chief Justice expressed dissatisfaction over Nadra record.

The PTA regional director Kamran Gandapur submitted that under international agreements roaming facility was given to cellular companies in Afghanistan. However, he did not satisfy the court over the activation of about one million Afghan SIMs in KPK and Fata.

Local franchiser of one cellular company informed the bench that the company had given him a target of issuance of 1,200 SIMs, but he could hardly sell 250 SIMs. He said that the company then took the remaining SIMs from him and sold it through illegal ways in the open market. A representative of a cellular company told the bench that the company was fully cooperating with the government and provided all sensitive spy system equipments worth millions of rupees to the secret agencies for detecting the date and other information.