Some employees of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) at the airport were involved in the theft of data and documents of pilgrims which are sold in the black market, a parliamentary panel was informed.
FIA Director (Cybercrime) Afzal Butt, while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication, said that three FIA employees at the airport have come under scrutiny for selling passenger details on the black market, the Dawn reported Thursday.
He said that travel agents were also involved in stealing the data and documents of passengers returning from Umrah (pilgrimage).
“Of the three FIA employees, one has been sent behind the bars, the second was granted bail and the third is on pre-arrest bail,” Butt told the panel which met for a briefing by the FIA and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on the illegal registration of mobile devices and the misuse of travellers’ data meant for the registration of mobile phones under the Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS).
The Committee observed that the stolen information and travel documents such as passport and identity card numbers that are needed to register mobile phones are being used in the open market to unblock non-customs paid mobile phones for Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000, the report said.
The PTA has shared more than 45,000 cases of identity theft of passengers with the FIA for legal action, however, Butt told senators that the FIA cannot act unless it receives a formal request.
The DIRBS also came under criticism, with members describing it as an “inconvenience and impediment” for Pakistani nationals bringing mobile phones back to the country rather than a facility, the report said.
“The phone blocking system is draconian and ridiculous. This is the only country in the world where everything is becoming harder for citizens every day and the noose around their necks is ever tightening. The system has failed to curb the smuggling of mobile handsets, the very purpose for which it was developed,” Chairperson of the Committee Senator Rubina Khalid said.
Defending the DIRBS, PTA Chairman Amir Azeem Bajwa said that the legal commercial import of mobile phones has more than doubled since it was enforced.
“The PTA has the capability to identify and trace 100 pc and reach the source of who and how the travel documents were stolen. The PTA can de-register a mobile handset that has been unblocked using false information,” he was quoted as saying.
Officials from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) told the committee that, effective July 1, Pakistanis travelling from abroad cannot bring a phone duty-free, the report said.