So a few months ago our government decided to finally get down to the brass tacks and Zarb-e-azb was initiated. Let’s not delve into the importance of this operation, it was followed by a brutal backlash in the form of Peshawar school carnage, after which the nation slipped into utter bewilderment accompanied by deep grief.

Pakistanis came out of it pledging to end it all no matter what.   And the fight continues as the moratorium on death penalty has been lifted. 

Many already banned religious outfits have been re-banned– banning them once was obviously not enough.  But we are still ignoring a major factor that has been encouraging terrorism in the country. 

The unchecked, unaccountable and untouchable world of grey traffic continues to expand…

“In telecommunications business, a white route is a route where both source and destination are legal termination. This is opposed to a black route, which is a route that is illegal in both ends. Also common in telecom (especially VoIP) is the term grey route, which defines a route that is legal for one country or the party on one end, but illegal on the alternative end.”

Grey traffic involves the use of illegal telephone exchanges for making international calls that bypasses legal routes and of course exchanges. These illegal exchanges include VOIP (voice-over internet protocol) using a computer, GSM (global system for mobile) gateways, WLL (wireless local loop) phones or mobile SIMs.

This traffic is further distributed using WLL and mobile numbers. Grey routes are arrangements that fall outside the regular course of business beyond the realms of licensed telecom companies in each country.

What are they used for?  Not for any legal purpose as is evident by their functioning. The guarding of anonymity is the major component of this shady business costing the exchequer a loss of approximately1 billion each year.

According to PTA officials themselves, during the year 2013-14 alone, Pakistan witnessed 75 per cent increase in grey traffic mostly attributed to international clearing houses established during the PPP regime. The said purpose behind setting these clearing houses up was to provide low cost calls to the users eventually compelling the main stream telecommunication providers to lower their rates. This unfortunately did not serve the purpose, though the PML-N government has discontinued the practice, but there is a lot more to be done before the traffic is actually under control

The proxies and the fake handlers have given birth to a labyrinth of obscure businesses imitating a masquerade. You do not know who is about to approach you, from where and why.A blasphemous third rated movie enraged the nation and YouTube was banned as a result but there is hardly any talk on how to holdthese free anonymous SMS and email sites accountable.They are jeopardizing the lives of millions.

PTA once announced a toll free number to register complaints against the international calls showing local numbers but to no avail. The business is not only still there,it is flourishing and serving as the breeding ground for the mischievous actions.

Any miscreant can get such a SIM and carry out any terrorist activity without ‘spoiling the fun’ and come out clean. Once the SIM is blocked and ‘purged’ the records are so inaccessible that it seems as if they never existed in the first place.  You can try to trace the locations and the identity of the person or any specific group but it would be in vain.  Once the grey SIMs are blocked, chasing the owner is nothing but a wild goose chase.

Now when the ICH policy has been revoked it was expected that the menace of grey traffic would be dealt with, while the international calls would be cheaper by six to eight rupees for oversees Pakistanis resulting in the promotion of  competition in the telecommunication sector.

Pakistanis are still waiting to harvest the fruits of these changes, as grey traffic continues to prosper amid increasing terrorism and a monster named anonymity ready to pounce at common Pakistanis, exposing them to crimes like extortion, and harassment at the very least.