ISLAMABAD - The government on Friday informed the Upper House of the Parliament that during its recent drive of biometric verification of SIMs throughout the country, 66 million SIMs have been found as dormant, not under the use of any subscriber, out of the total 103 million SIMs required to be biometrically verified.

State Minister for IT Anusha Rehman, replaying on a call attention notice moved by ruling party lawmaker Kalsoom Perveen, said that most of these 66 million dormant SIMs were being used in grey trafficking and had been blocked now.

Giving details of the recent biometric verification of SIMs and queries of a ruling female lawmaker as to how SIMs in millions were blocked in one go, she said that Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had launched a campaign under the directions of Ministry of Interior as part of the implementation of National Action Plan (NAP) on counter terrorism.

"Out of the total 103 million SIMs, 70 million were biometrically verified during the recent campaign, 22 million were blocked after the end of deadline (April 12) and now 1.3 million subscribers have approached the operators for verification out of the total blocked SIMs," she said while replying on behalf of PTA.

The minister also made it clear that these SIMs had not been blocked for an indefinite period of time as any one who would come for verification of his blocked SIMs, the same would be unblocked after verification process.

Replying to a question as to why this biometric verification was launched as people were facing problems in this regard, the minister said that the lawmaker should better ask from the Ministry of Interior that under which laws it asked to initiate this exercise. At the same time, she added that all the political parties had unanimously approved NAP and the campaign was part of its implementation to end terrorism in the country.

"In pursuance of NAP, the work was given to PTA by the Ministry of Interior," she said.

She said that biometric verification process was to be completed within the given deadline of 90 days and the guidelines of verification were framed with the consultations of all mobile operators and the country's security agencies. "About 77,000 biometric verification machines were installed throughout the country for this purpose," she said adding that PTA started complete media campaign to aware the masses about biometric verification.

Earlier, Kalsoom Perveen speaking on her call attention notice, said that the PTA chairman has recently announced that 1.5 million SIMs had been blocked. On the other said, the government says that 4.5 million SIMs have to be verified. She said that people of far off areas were facing problems in the biometric verification, as they had to travel long for this purpose and many of them were even unaware about this exercise. She said why he government did not send their mobile teams for verification purpose. "How the government came to know that 1.2 million SIMs have to be blocked and who were the people using these blocked SIMs," she had questioned.

Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan giving a statement on the floor of the house regarding his recent visit to Afghanistan, said the government was making serious efforts to address the issue of Afghan Transit Trade to promote trade between the two countries. "The vision is to construct Peshawar-Kabul Motorway and to lay Peshawar-Kabul railway track," he said adding that these issue are on the radar.

"The Afghan President promised multiple entry visas for businessmen on reciprocal basis and ensured to address other issues at the earliest," he said.

The minister said the two countries were also in the process of finalizing the Preferential Trade Agreement, which would enhance market access to business of both the countries. He said the two countries have also started seriously addressing the issue of smuggling.

The minister informed that the house that the government was constructing three state of the art passage way at three border points - Wagah, Torkham and Chaman - to enhance trade with Afghanistan.

Senator Noman asked the government to get normalized tariff on goods trade from Afghanistan side in order to discourage smuggling.

Replying to another call attention notice about the decision of the government to call back the commercial councillors posted abroad, Dastagir informed the house that these commercial councillors and minister (trade) were being called back after the expiry of their contract of two years.

Senator Rehman Malik raising issue of public importance questioned transparency in the privatisation process of at least two banks. He said that the share of a bank had been sold to influential people in London through a group even without seeking bank guarantees and without the clearance of NAB. He asked the government to tell how many cases in military court would affect after the Supreme Court halted executions in such cases.