9,000 SIMS of non-filers blocked on FBR’s orders

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has blocked over 9,000 SIM cards across the country belonging to individuals who have not filed their taxes. A spokesperson for the FBR announced this action on Wednesday, stating that the measure is part of an effort to combat tax evasion and boost revenue collection in light of the nation’s pressing economic challenges.

The decision to block the SIM cards was communicated to telecommunication companies during a meeting held on Tuesday. The FBR emphasized the importance of this step as a means to enforce compliance and ensure that all eligible taxpayers fulfill their obligations. This initiative is expected to enhance the government’s revenue generation capabilities, which is crucial given the current economic indicators and the need for increased financial stability.

“The decision has been made by parliament, therefore, the government’s decision should be implemented in any case,” he added.

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

The authority maintains 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 said.

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

Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) is currently hearing a case related to the government’s orders to block SIM cards of non-filers. The court clarified that the government’s decision remains effective, as its injunction does not pertain to the blocking of non-filers’ SIM cards.

The court had previously issued a stay order in response to a petition from telecommunication companies challenging the government’s decision. However, the federal government has filed a separate petition seeking to lift this stay order.

During the hearing, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq emphasized that the stay order was solely intended to protect the petitioner and did not extend to blocking SIM cards of non-filers. Therefore, the federal government’s directive to block these SIMs is still valid.

Chief Justice Farooq acknowledged the government’s focus on economic reforms, suggesting that the SIM blocking measure might be part of these efforts. The court pledged to expedite the proceedings and adjourned the case until June.

In related developments, after extensive discussions with stakeholders, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) announced earlier this month that telecommunication companies have agreed to start manually blocking SIM cards in small batches until their systems can automate the process. The FBR communicated the first batch of 5,000 non-filers to the telecom operators, with more batches to follow daily.

Previously, the FBR had decided to block 500,000 SIM cards of individuals who were not on the active taxpayer list but were required to file Income Tax Returns for the 2023 tax year.

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