Cabinet settles on deadline for illegally imported phones

Updated November 24, 2018

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.— Photo courtesy Customs CMO
.— Photo courtesy Customs CMO

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Friday set the deadline of Dec 31 for blocking all new mobile phones being brought into the country through illegal means.

The forum also decided that Prime Minister Imran Khan will open the Pakistan-India Kartarpur border in a ceremony to be held on Nov 28.

The cabinet meeting, presided over by the prime minister, strongly condemned Friday’s terrorist attacks in the country — one outside the Chinese consulate in Karachi and the second near Hangu.

Information minister says PM will open Kartarpur border crossing on 28th

“The cabinet decided to impose a ban on new mobile phones to be smuggled into the country after Dec 31,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said in a press conference. He exp­lain­ed that mobile phones that have already been brought into the country before the deadline, even through illegal means, can be used, but after Dec 31 no such sets will be allowed to be operational. The minister said the cabinet has also decided to promote the local mobile phone industry and therefore a ban could be imposed on even the import of mobile phones in the next phase.

According to Mr Chaudhry, as per the government’s record around 82 million mobile phones were imported through legal channels every year and 2.5 billion mobile phones were smuggled into the country per year. “We have to control this trend,” he explained, adding that the sale of second-hand mobile phones was completely banned in the country but the sale-purchase of used mobile phones was being carried out freely. “The federal cabinet has decided to take strict action against this business,” he reiterated.

Kartarpur border

The information minister said that PM Khan will, in a grand ceremony, formally open the Kartarpur (at Narowal) border crossing between Pakistan and India on Nov 28.

He explained that the border crossing was being opened on the demand of Sikh pilgrims who visit Pakistan every year in large numbers to perform religious rituals in Kartarpur and other parts of the country. “Following the opening of the border, there will be free entry for Sikh pilgrims,” he promised, adding that besides former Indian cricket star Navjot Singh Sidhu, a group of Indian journalists would also be coming to attend the border-opening ceremony.

The minister maintained that the border crossing was being opened under a peace initiative taken by PM Khan. “It will be a permanent opening, and further details [in this regard] are being finalised,” he said.

The minister said that the government believed that once sour relations between Pakistan and India were normalised, this would benefit Pakistan because the country is located between two international markets and could obtain economic adva­ntages. He qualified, however, that in the absence of a settlement on the Kashmir issue, relations between the two sides would remain tense. “We cannot forget the Kashmir issue because it is an important part of our policies,” he explained.

Responding to a question regarding the regularisation of PM Khan’s house at Banigala, the minister said the house was constructed 30 years ago under the then laws, and therefore there was no need for any regularisation.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2018