Pakistan government blocks over 11,000 SIM cards of non-filers

World Friday 24/May/2024 09:48 AM
Pakistan government blocks over 11,000 SIM cards of non-filers

Islamabad: In a bid to promote tax compliance and tax culture, authorities in Pakistan have blocked the SIM cards of more than 11,000 people so far who failed to file tax returns, Geo News reported citing a spokesperson of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on Thursday.

In a statement, the spokesperson of the tax collection body said, "11,252 SIMs have been blocked as of May 22 under the Income Tax General Order."

"The FBR is committed to promoting tax compliance and tax culture," a spokesperson added.

The FBR announced a day earlier that more than 9,000 SIMs of non-filers had been blocked all over the country as per the directives of the tax collection body, Geo News reported.

The spokesperson said the FBR informed the telecommunication companies about the decision to block SIM cards to curb tax evasion to improve revenue generation amid dire economic indicators in a meeting held earlier this week.

"The decision has been made by parliament, therefore, the government's decision should be implemented in any case," he had added.

Meanwhile, sources said that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has distanced itself from the matter of SIM's blocking, Geo News reported.

The authority maintained that it did not have the authority to block the SIMs.

Earlier, two telecom firms blocked another 3,500 SIMs owned by the non-filers on Tuesday, the FBR spokesperson had said.

He further stated that the SIMs of those who file the tax returns will be unblocked immediately.

On May 17, the Islamabad High Court (IHC), while hearing a case about the orders for blocking SIMs of the non-filers, had remarked that the government's decision to block SIMs of a non-filler was still in effect as the injunction of the court was not related to blocking the SIMs of non-filers.

Geo News reported that the court had issued a stay order against the action of the telecom companies in a petition against the government for its decision to block SIMs.

The federal government filed a separate petition seeking to lift the stay order on the proceedings against the mobile network companies.

During the hearing, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq clarified that the stay order was solely to safeguard the petitioner and that the injunction was not to block the SIMs. Therefore, the decision of the federal government was still in effect, he had said

"We can understand that the federal government is focusing on economic reforms. This step may have been taken in the context of economic reforms," the chief justice had remarked.

The court had further pledged to expedite the proceedings and adjourned the case till June.

After lengthy deliberations among the stakeholders, the FBR announced earlier this month that telecom companies have agreed to commence the manual blocking process of SIMs in small batches until their systems are fully equipped to automate it, Geo News reported.

The tax collection body had said that the first batch comprising 5,000 non-filers had been communicated to the telecom operators and that more batches would be sent to telcos daily.

Earlier, it was decided to block 500,000 SIMs of individuals who did not appear on the active taxpayer list but were liable to file the Income Tax Return for Tax Year 2023.