ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s telecom watchdog, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), is introducing a new system of identifying and blocking unregistered or illegally imported counterfeit mobile phones from Friday, December 1, 2018.

According to rough estimates, number of such cell phones that will be useless after the deadline, is feared to be in millions for either they are stolen or imported into Pakistan illegally.

The system is being launched to block use of illegally imported and counterfeit mobile phone sets that have either been stolen or smuggled inside the country and then used by criminals or terrorists in their acts of sabotage.

The PTA in cooperation with Ministry of Information Technology (IT) has introduced this system in line with the Telecom Policy 2015.

The new nationwide system called Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) will operate as a Centralised Equipment Identity Register, a database of International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers of blacklisted mobile phones.

Once DIRBS is set in place, the counterfeit mobiles with fake or stolen IMEI numbers will not be able to operate on Pakistani mobile networks, discouraging smuggling, said an official of the PTI while talking to Gulf News here on Thursday.

The mobile handsets used as security threats or by the criminals would also be identified through the new system. if they are not registered then they would be blocked before any such activity.

Under the regulations, unregistered mobile phones will not be able to be connected to the system of cellular companies, said the official adding it would also help in blocking stolen phones on the basis of their IMEI numbers.

Earlier the PTA had set Oct 20 deadline to render dysfunctional all such mobile phones whose IMEI numbers were not registered but after public’s hue and cry on large scale that first the Authority should sensitise the mobile phone users and give some time to see and confirm if their IMEI numbers were registered or not, the deadline was extended to Dec 1.

According to official reports, in Pakistan annually, one million handsets are smuggled costing the government around Rs15 billion ($150 million) every year in lost revenue.

However, unofficially, the number is much higher i.e. 5-6 million causing loss of about Rs75 billion ($750 million).

Pakistan’s premiere tax collection body, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has also been calling for end to the smuggling of such mobiles which also create security problems.

According to a senior official of the Interior Ministry, the decision will also help counter terrorists’ organised and planned activities in the country.

Most of the terrorist acts have been carried out in the country by using such mobile handsets that are without registered IMEI numbers.

Once their mobile phones go dysfunctional, the terrorists, their handlers and helpers will be left without a network to guide or abet each other in their plans and thus there would be little scope for any organised crime.

From Dec 1, the cellular companies too will be left with no option but to provide service only to those mobile devices that are registered with the system through IMEI and Computerised National Identity Card numbers. This will help curb misuse for subversive activities.