Pakistanis must provide their fingerprints for a database in order to purchase a new cell phone, pursuant to a new anti-terror law meant to keep track of conversations between potential jihadists. The consumer must comply or lose the phone account on April 15.
The government implemented new laws after the Taliban attacked a school in Peshawar and murdered 150 people, mostly children.
“The Peshawar attackers were communicating [via cellphone] with their handlers across the border in Afghanistan,” said a security official. “We have to take those advantages away from them.”
The cellphones were linked to one woman, who was not connected to any of the murderers.
The wealthy can provide their thumbprint from the comfort of their homes. But other Pakistanis will stand in line at the local stores, which could take hours. Nathra Kamaluddin told NBC News she visited her store three times before she was fingerprinted.
The process is not smooth. Over 103 million SIM cards exist in Pakistan and officials believe many are “of questionable validity.” In six weeks, companies verified over “50 million SIM cards belonging to 38 million users.” However, there are just as many that still need verification. This means the companies, such as cellphone giant Mobilink, need to send company representatives into remote areas.
“We’ve tried to reach far and wide, especially the villages, deploying hundreds of vans and kiosks to ensure people have enough time and access to register,” said Mobilink spokesman Omar Manzur. “However, Pakistanis have large families, and users have a habit of buying multiple SIMs.”