KOHAT, July 8: The services of Afghan cellphone companies are being used freely in Kohat region, mainly Hangu, and the adjoining tribal areas, where the local mobile companies have suspended their services to check contacts between militant groups.
It shows the helplessness of the authorities concerned to stop the illegal service and effectively cut off links between the militants on either side of the Durand Line.
Sources said that the intelligence agencies had informed the federal government that there were about 40,000 SIMs of Afghanistan’s mobile phone services of Mubarik, Etisalat, Roshan, Afghan and MTN, which were being used in border areas on the Pakistani side.
The coverage of Pakistani areas had been launched recently by sixth BSIM cellphone service, they said.
“This problem of easy connectivity and availability of Afghan SIMs will have enormous repercussions on the fight against terror, economy of the country and patriotism of tribesmen,” the sources said, quoting the intelligence report.
Strangely, the Afghan mobile services were also available in Hangu district of Kohat division, which was a settled area and only 100-km from Peshawar and 45-km from the regional headquarters of ISI, MI, IB, IXth division of army and seat of commissioner Kohat division.
According to the report, the signals of these services were clear in Mamozai and Dabori areas of upper Orakzai Agency and central Kurram Agency which were occupied by some of the prominent leaders of various factions of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
The sources said that certain Afghan Taliban based in Waziristan and Kurram areas were also using these phone services without any check.
The sources said that the government had suspended mobile phone services in these areas from the past several years to cut off links between the militants in different parts of tribal areas on Pakistani soil and with that of Afghanistan through phone to check their use in the suicide attacks and other terrorist activities.
However, the Afghan SIMs have been used freely in tribal areas though the call charges are high compared with those offered by Pakistani companies.
The sources said that the Afghan phone services were available in Kurram Agency of Kohat region while use of Afghan SIMs was rampant in Waziristan and other parts adjacent to the Durand line.
An official said that the tribesmen living on both sides of the border had dual nationalities and the elders known as maliks were drawing monthly stipends fixed for them in recognition of their loyalty to each country. Similarly, they used cars and foodstuff of Afghanistan.
He said that certainly the reason for growing use of Afghan phone services was the absence of Pakistani mobile service and poor telecommunication facilities offered in the tribal areas.
The sources said after the cellphone service was suspended in Darra Adamkhel last month the tribesmen appealed to the higher authorities and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor to restore the service, as this was creating problems for them besides affecting their business.
They said that several people had businesses in Punjab, Peshawar and Sindh and could not contact with the parties there due to the ban on cellphone use.
The Afghan mobile service was not available in Darra Adamkhel because of its long distance from the Durand Line.
It has also been learnt that the PTCL wireless service was working even across the border in Afghanistan due to its strong signals and lack of measures to block it.
When contacted, the PTCL officials, who requested anonymity, said that the technical system usually used for blocking transmission of signals across the border was not yet installed on the sensitive border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
However, they said that the cross-border misuse of the wireless service could be effectively blocked with the installation of the system.