ISLAMABAD: The non-implementation of the Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) has thrived the usage of smuggled sets in Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan region, a source in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) told Dawn on Tuesday.
Unlike the rest of the country, the key mobile phone operator in AJK & GB region is the Special Communications Organisation (SCOM), which is owned by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, and the DIRBS does not apply to its connections.
DIRBS is designed to identify non-compliant devices operating on local mobile networks — Jazz, Ufone, Telenor and Zong4G. It automatically registers compliant devices operating on mobile networks and eventually blocks non-compliant devices.
Amid a complete halt in local manufacturing and import of mobile phones, around 100,000 mobile phones are being smuggled into AJK and Gilgit Baltistan region every month, disclosed the source.
Meanwhile, the industry bigwigs have confirmed to Dawn that non-duty paid mobile phones smuggled from Dubai found their way to AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan region.
“The monthly sales of local mobile sets were around 2 million devices and around 8-10 per cent of it was in AJK and GB region,” said Zeeshan Mianoor, Deputy Vice Chairman of Pakistan Mobile Phone Manufacturers Association.
“The unregistered phones do not work in the mainland country but operate on SCOM and the same connection works in mainland Pakistan on the Ufone network due to the agreement between SCOM and Ufone,” said Muhammad Ishaq Jalal, a Skardu-based journalist.
He also added that expensive, used smartphones are available at reasonable prices in the GB region primarily because many of them are blocked in mainland Pakistan, either because they were not registered with PTA or stolen and the IMEI has been blocked.
While responding to a question, the spokesperson of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said that both the authority and the Ministry of IT and Telecom have asked the Cabinet Division to ensure the implementation of DIRBS on SCOM.
“As soon as the approval is granted by the Cabinet Division, the system will be extended to the SCOM connections,” added the spokesperson.
The DIRBS was introduced to protect the local manufacturing of mobile devices by imposing duties on imports of mobile phones as well as those brought by travellers coming from abroad. However, this system also helped reduce mobile phone smuggling.
Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2023