Government Partners with Private Sector to Combat Mobile Phone Smuggling

Government Partners with Private Sector to Combat Mobile Phone Smuggling

ISLAMABAD Zubair kasuri: As the pressure intensifies to halt the illicit smuggling of mobile phones into the country, the new government is poised to implement robust mechanisms in collaboration with private sector stakeholders. Former Premier Anwar ul Haq Kakar took the initial stride in this endeavor by establishing a committee on February 12, 2024, dedicated to addressing Mobile Phone Smuggling, helmed by the Director-General of Reforms and Automation at the Customs department.

The Customs department has reached out to both the Telecom Operators Association (TOA) and the Pakistan Mobile Phone Manufacturers Association (PMPMA), requesting the nomination of a representative each for the committee. This concerted effort aims to stem the tide of mobile phone smuggling plaguing the nation. The letter directed to TOA, chaired by Amir Ibrahim, encompasses all telecom and internet service providers in the country. Meanwhile, the missive to PMPMA, addressed to its Senior Vice Chairman Muzzafar Paracha, underscores the local mobile manufacturers’ concerns regarding the escalating smuggling activities and the circumvention of regulatory measures like the Device Identification, Registration, and Blocking System (DIRBS) initiated by the PTA.

Addressing the issue, Mr. Paracha emphasized the detrimental impact of smuggling on business confidence and future prospects. He highlighted the imperative for steadfast business plans to bolster negotiations with international partners, facilitate expansions, and introduce new models within Pakistan’s market. With approximately 34 local companies engaged in mobile phone assembly, expansion plans are underway to meet the burgeoning demand.

The committee’s Terms of Reference (TORs) encompass a comprehensive assessment of mobile phone smuggling volumes, its fiscal repercussions, and the ramifications of circumventing regulations through patching or cloning devices. It aims to evaluate the effectiveness of countermeasures deployed by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and devise control mechanisms to deter unauthorized modifications via DIRBS.

Amid mounting concerns from the private sector, particularly regarding IMEI number cloning, the committee pledges to investigate complaints and identify deficiencies in existing regulatory frameworks. Furthermore, it will propose a multifaceted policy framework encompassing legal, technological, and administrative measures to curb smuggling and ensure regulatory compliance through enhanced interagency coordination.

Additionally, the committee will recommend concrete measures to combat operators facilitating illegal cloning and patching programs. Comprising officials from various governmental bodies including the Customs department, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Pakistan Single Window, FBR, Ministry of IT and Telecom, Ministry of Industries, and the Cyber Crime Wing of FIA, this collaborative effort underscores the government’s commitment to curbing mobile phone smuggling and safeguarding national interests.

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