Islamabad - The franchises and retailers nominated by mobile phone companies for the biometric re-verification of SIMs are charging up to Rs30 for the verification of each SIM, whereas the official fee announced by the PTA is Rs10.

“The franchise shop at Super Market charged me Rs30 for verification of my phone SIM, and when I protested, the shopkeeper said that Rs10 is official charges and Rs20 was his own cut,” Sagheer Bukhari, a resident of the capital, to The Nation.

Citizens also complained that the outlets were not issuing any receipt after the verification. “I went to a mobile phone shop near Zero Point; the shopkeeper charged me Rs20 for SIM verification; and when I asked for the receipt, he refused to give it and gave me verbal assurance that the SIM has been verified. Now, I don’t know if my SIM has been re-verified or I have been cheated, said Mehrun Nisa, a student of Urdu University.

After Peshawar massacre, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority announced to re-verify all existing mobile phone SIMs biometrically, through electronic thumb impression of the customers, , under government's newly devised National Action Plan to counter terrorism. On PTA directives, the five cellular operators of the country initiated biometric re-verification process of around 103 million SIMs.

Biometric verification of phone SIMs is not a new idea, interior ministry had taken this initiative in the past too but the campaign flopped as both consumers and cellular companies both showed little interest in it.

Many consumers are still unconvinced and believe SIM verification campaign just a wastage of time and money. “Government has been devising new schemes to loot people now and then. Punjab province to curb vehicle theft launched a campaign requiring printing of engine numbers on windscreen and hind screen of all vehicles. The political bosses of the time got the contract and screens of almost all the vehicles were printed by charging Rs300-500 each. But the scheme was abandoned after minting money from the public, said Khawaja Anwar, an auto parts dealer at G-7.

He said the SIM variation campaign is probably to serve two purposes: one, to mint money and second, to create an impression that rulers were doing everything possible for security of the people. But, this campaign too will have same fate, he added.

No PTA official was available to comment when asked as to who was the real beneficiary of this campaign, who would get the amount collected through it and what exactly was the role of the PTA in the whole process. PTA chairman did not respond to phone calls. Some other PTA officials said that spokesman Khurran Mehran was in the USA, and no one else was allowed to comment on such matters.