Over 9,000 SIMS of non-filers blocked as per FBR orders

A representative image of several SIM cards. — AFP/Archive
  • FBR informs telecom companies about the decision to block SIMs.
  • PTA distances itself from the issue of SIM blocking.
  • IHC says the government's decision to block SIM cards remains in place.

ISLAMABAD: More than 9,000 SIM cards of non-filers have been blocked across the country as per the directives of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), a spokesperson for the tax collecting body said on Wednesday.

The spokesperson said the FBR informed telecom companies about the decision to block SIM cards to curb tax evasion and improve revenue generation amid dire economic indicators in a meeting on Tuesday.

“The decision was made by Parliament, so the Government's decision must be applied in any case,” he added.

Meanwhile, sources said that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has distanced itself from the SIM blocking issue.

The authority maintains that it did not have the authority to block the SIMs.

Earlier, two telecom companies on Tuesday blocked another 3,500 SIM cards owned by those who did not file the return, the FBR spokesperson said.

He also stated that the SIMs of those who file tax returns will be unlocked immediately.

Government decision to block SIM cards still in force: IHC

Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court (IHC), which is hearing a case related to orders to block SIM cards of non-filers, said the government's decision to block SIM cards of non-filers was still in force as the court's injunction was not related to blocking the SIM cards of non-filers.

The court had issued a stay order against the action of telecom companies in a petition against the government over its decision to block SIM cards.

The federal government has filed a separate petition seeking to lift the order suspending proceedings against mobile network companies.

At the beginning of the hearing, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq clarified that the suspension order was only to safeguard the petitioner and the court order was not to block the SIMs. Therefore, the federal government's decision remained in force, he said

“We can understand that the federal government is focusing on economic reforms. “This step may have been taken in the context of economic reforms,” the Chief Justice said.

The court also promised to expedite the procedure and adjourned the case until June.

After lengthy deliberations among stakeholders, the FBR announced earlier this month that telcos have agreed to begin the process of manually blocking SIM cards in small batches until their systems are fully equipped to automate it.

The tax collection body had said that the first batch comprising 5,000 non-filers had been communicated to telecom operators and more batches would be sent to telecom companies daily.

Previously, it was decided to block 500,000 SIMs of individuals who did not appear on the list of active taxpayers but were required to submit the Income Tax Return for the 2023 tax year.

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