ISLAMABAD

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) carried out around a dozen of raids against the illegal exchanges last year, but the maniac of grey traffic continued to dent national kitty with billions of rupees.

These raids were conducted throughout the country and with assistance of federal Investigation agency and VOIP exchanges, SIMS, and computers were confiscated.

According to PTA definition, the use of illegal gateway exchanges to bypass the legal gateways and terminate/originate international traffic, through VoIP gateways, GSM gateways, WLL phones, mobile SIMs or other related equipment so as to avoid applicable taxes and/or regulatory fee, is termed as grey trafficking.

Estimates suggest the government incurs over Rs3bn losses due to grey traffic. During last year, PTA conducted around dozen of raids and claimed to arrest illegal traffickers.

But the arrests of line staff during the raids hardly made any difference and grey trafficking continued to flourish in the country. Insiders believe that these raids have been counterproductive.

When some facility is raided after a long surveillance and coordination with FIA, what we all get is some staff (computer operators) and some cheap equipment; they get bail from court in a week and start a fresh, said an official.

According to Section 31 of the Pakistan Telecommunication Re-organisation Act (1996), operation of Telecommunication System without obtaining a valid licence from the authority is a punishable offence and empowers the court of law to impose a fine of up to Rs10 million or imprisonment of three years.

Insiders believe that due to absence of strict laws, flaws in investigations by law enforcing agencies, the drive against the illegal gateway exchanges has been merely a time wasting exercise.

Despite human resource and technology challenges, sometimes we catch some illegal activity, but the local law enforcing agencies inform the culprits and they ran away, a source said.

Some believe that being a regulator, it is not the mandate of the PTA to run after illegal exchanges but it is job of law enforcers to identify illegal exchanges and take necessary actions.

It is pertinent to mention that PTA has no data that how many grey traffickers were actually sentenced during the last year or during last many years.

Some believe that the raid against illegal exchanges and many other such activities has been introduced to justify highly paid redundant work force, inducted on political pressure, during last many years.