Multiple SIM cards issued to 800 women from one village

Published December 1, 2018
Villagers demanded a probe under the cyber crime laws. — AFP/File photo
Villagers demanded a probe under the cyber crime laws. — AFP/File photo

SAHIWAL: Three months ago, an announcement was made at public address systems of three mosques of village 53/5-L inviting women to get themselves registered for the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). They were told to bring their original computerised national identity cards (CNICs).

Up to 800 women arrived at the designated place where three people collected their CNIC copies and thumb impressions on a device. Since then, the women have never heard of the support programme.

Last week, local resident Muhammad took his wife Asghari Bibi to Okara to get issued a SIM (subscriber identity module) to her name. The representative of a telecom company refused to issue them a SIM. When they asked the reason, they were told that already nine SIMs had been issued to her CNIC.

Villagers were duped into giving their CNICs, thumb impressions in the name of BISP

Shocked, they returned to the village and shared the story with lawyer Siddique Baloch.

Mr Baloch says women’s data was fraudulently taken by three people — Taj Muhammad, Tariq Hussain and Khalid Hussain — in the guise of the BISP registration. Of the three, Taj and Tariq are in police custody after the villagers approached police for a probe into the matter.

Another resident Imran Baloch says he checked data on several other CNICs of the women who had attended the gathering three months back. This correspondent also checked data on randomly picked five CNICs on designated Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) number 668 and it emerged they were registered with eight to nine SIM cards.

Most of the SIM cards have been issued from a Chinese telecom company.

Imran Baloch said many women, issued multiple SIMS, even have no mobile phone.

The women collectively launched an application with the Sahiwal regional police office.

Yousufwala station house officer Imdad Baloch said that on the complaint of Abdul Sattar, the police registered a first information report under sections 468, 420 and 471 of the Pakistan Penal Code. He said the police are searching Khalid who took thumb impressions from women.

Villagers demanded a probe under the cyber crime laws.

The criminal aspect is, however, of the PTA as no subscriber can get more than five SIM cards against one CNIC but in this case, up to nine SIM cards have been issued against one CNIC.

This Dawn correspondent contacted Manan Shabbir, the customer care representative of telecom company Zong to get their comment on issue of multiple SIM cards against one CNIC, he said: “Our relevant department is looking into your concern”. PTA spokesperson Tayyaba Iftikhar also chose to give ambiguous response: “Authority is looking into the matter”.

Imran Baloch says if PTA data is something to be considered, this means more than 4,000 SIM cards have been issued to the women in the last two months and of them, 60 per cent are from one company.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Rana Fawad told Dawn they wrote to the PTA regarding confirmation of data. The question to be solved for the police is how many SIM cards are active and from which telecom outlets they were issued.

DSP Fawad says they will also involve the Federal Investigation Authority to resolve the issue.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2018

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