ISLAMABAD  - Dismissing the decisions of the interior minister, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has given permission to the mobile phone companies to sell SIM cards from their own outlets and franchise centers after verification from Nadra.After meeting with a delegation of chief executive officers (CEOs) of private cellular operators at the PM House, the prime minister also decided to lift ban on mobile phone numbers portability. However, he said that the sale of SIMs from retail network shall remain suspended until the deployment of biometrics devices at each center. The PM asked mobile network operators to issue SIMs only after verification from the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and ensure verification of IMEI numbers of handset, besides directing them to set up biometric centers in two months for credible verification of subscribers.Earlier this month, Interior Minister Rehman Malik had ordered a ban on the sale of unregistered mobile phone SIMs. He had said that prepaid SIM cards would be dispatched to buyers’ residential address and would not be sold directly from the company outlets. He said that “the PTA will also block five per cent of illegal SIMs in the due process. No change of network will be allowed” and sales of satellite phones will be discontinued as well.The interior ministry had then directed all operators to ensure delivery of new SIMs through postal or courier service. According to those directions, customers would order new SIMs only at the operator’s customer service office and have it delivered at their residential addresses. On delivery, the verification of the subscriber would have been done via CNIC, as well as a second identity in the form of a utility bill or a driving license.But Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf decided that the condition of second identity for issuance of SIM would also be withdrawn, and announced that the decision to block mobile number portability (MNP) would also be cancelled.The PM directed the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Information Technology to immediately coordinate with customs and other relevant authorities to streamline the import and local assembling of cellular handsets in the country, ensuring all handsets bear unique identification numbers (IMEI) and handsets without IMEI and duplicate IMEI be banned.PM Raja Pervaiz said that the decision was taken so that inconvenience is not caused to the masses and the common man is least affected. The government would also make every effort to facilitate the cellular companies, he said. The prime minister added that the government would consult all stakeholders before taking decisions on issues concerning the cellular sector.The PM, however, defended the recent government decision to block mobile phones in certain cities during Muharram, saying the decision was taken in the national interest as the called the measure “unavoidable and extremely necessary” for the safety and security of life and property of the citizens. He said the country was facing the menace of terrorism which has affected lifestyles and certain restrictions need to be accepted for greater good of the masses.Those who attended the meeting included Prime Minister’s Adviser on IT, Dr Basit Riaz, Interior Secretary Khawaja Siddique Akbar, PTA Chairman Farooq Awan, IT secretary and other senior officials.