Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.—AFP (File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Thursday directed telecom operators to continue issuing mobile phone SIMs from their self-owned and operated business centers and franchises, overturning the interior ministry’s earlier orders of delivering new SIMs to customers via post.

However, the PM urged mobile network operators to issue SIMs only after verification from the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra).

Moreover, PM Ashraf also announced that a previous decision to block mobile number portability (MNP) would also be cancelled. The prime minister took these decisions after he met a delegation of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of private cellular operators at the Prime Minister House on Thursday.

The Interior Ministry had earlier directed all operators to ensure delivery of new SIMs through postal or courier service. According to the earlier directions of the interior ministry, customers would not have been able to buy new SIMs, only allowing them to order one from the operator’s customer service office and having it delivered at their residential addresses. On delivery, the verification of the subscriber would have been done via CNIC, as well as a second identity in the form of a utility bill or a driving licence.

The prime minister’s announcement allows customers to buy new SIMs from the operators’ business centers and franchises. However, the sale of SIMs from retail network will remain suspended until biometric devices are deployed at each center.

The PM further decided that the condition of second identity for issuance of SIM would also be withdrawn.

Prime Minister Ashraf directed the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Information Technology to immediately coordinate with customs and other relevant authorities to streamline the import and local assembling of cellular handsets in the country, ensuring all handsets bear unique identification numbers (IMEI) and handsets without IMEI and duplicate IMEI be banned.

PM Ashraf said that the decision was taken so that inconvenience is not caused to the masses and the common man is least affected.

The government would also make every effort to facilitate the cellular companies, he said.

The prime minister added that the government would consult all stakeholders before taking decisions on issues concerning the cellular sector.

Ashraf, however, said the recent decision to block mobile phones in certain cities during Muharram was taken in the national interest, calling the measure “unavoidable and extremely necessary” for the safety and security of life and property.

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