Why getting your SIM verified is important

Published: March 3, 2015
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This indeed increases awareness within us and the system; the results may not be visible immediately, but a change is greatly felt. STOCK IMAGE

The process of biometric verification for all existing SIMs is quite tiring, for telecoms and users alike. So why then is our government persistent on getting every SIM verified?

Eons ago, when we were gripped by the frenzy of issuing different SIMs and used to boast about having two to three lines all to ourselves, no one could imagine that we’d have to retrace all our SIMs and get them verified. Some people had their SIMs issued under the names of their deceased beloveds and they are quite perplexed about how to get that biometrically verified. Those who have SIM’s issued under their relatives’ names can claim ownership of the number, however.

While this entire process, of getting your SIM registered, flocking outside mobile network franchises and balance recharge facility outlets, and standing in long queues is aimed towards fighting terrorism, it focuses on another underlining issue. It depicts how we, as a nation, have been careless about our communication methods. My colleagues and peers have been frantically messaging their CNIC number to 668 in order to find out know how many SIMs have actually been issued on their names.

If only we had bothered before.

I got my SIM verified today and felt like putting on a “this SIM is on my name and I’m not a terrorist” badge. Largely, this whole effort remains a part of the government’s mission to eliminate the vacuum created by the non-availability of user information.

In recent terrorist attacks, the attackers were spotted using cellphones with lines registered under a woman’s name. She obviously had no idea about it. The entire verification chaos has highlighted numerous discrepancies in the system. The government has been sitting on this issue for decades. In other countries, using somebody else’s social security number is considered a crime and is served a severe punishment; this model is not new to the world of course, but better late than never.

Our telecommunication sector is worth billions of rupees. Nearly the entire nation uses cell phones and an average of two out of every five Pakistanis keeps two cell phones, along with a couple of spare SIMs.

However, this time, the government means business, which means you can say goodbye to your number if you do not verify your SIM. Most businesses work through cell phones, therefore, losing out on your SIM means getting a new one issued, sharing your new contact information with everyone, and losing touch with your clients.

Our telecoms are trying hard to get all their customers to verify their SIMs before they lose out on them. They have been setting up stalls at various locations and keeping their franchises open on Sundays. Personally, I found this experience quite amusing; housewives and businessmen belonging to different strata had to get out their comfort zones to save their SIMS.

It seems like the government has finally hit the nail on the head.

We are looking for a way to secure ourselves and not just looking for loopholes and shortcuts to get past this one. As a nation we have always waited resiliently for something effective to come into place.

We are yet to see how these verifications can curb anti-state activities or help trace criminals. The tone used by the government is strict and telecoms have flooded our inboxes with relentless messages to get our SIMs verified.

Those anticipating that their SIMs will be unblocked soon after the deadline passes, need to get their facts straight; for all the new SIMs issued or reopened, you will have to visit the franchise and provide your thumb impression, as this is the new process being followed to reissue SIMs. So eventually, you have get through this ordeal one way or another.

At first, a deadline was fixed to get all the SIMs verified by February 26, 2015 and later this was extended to April 15, 2015, which gives lazy bums a chance to procrastinate and wait till the last day to get going. This whole episode is being termed as the largest and fastest effort to collect biometric information in Pakistan.

At the end of the day I feel this drive has triggered a thought; our identity cards are not just mere passes to get away from the police or opening a bank account. Our identity can be stolen and misused by everyone and we have every right to protect it, especially during times like these. Such issues should be paid attention to, legally and individually.

This indeed increases awareness within us and the system; the results may not be visible immediately, but a change is greatly felt.

Sorath Shah

Sorath Shah

A graduate of Greenwich University Karachi, she is pursuing a degree in Media Sciences and currently working as the Studio Manager at IDG Business Units. She tweets as @SorathShah (www.twitter.com/SorathShah)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.