The Director of the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) cybercrime department Afzal Butt has told the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication that FIA’s airport employees have also been involved in stealing the travel data of passengers to illegally register new mobile phones, as reported by Dawn.
The director said, “While travel agents were stealing the documents of passengers returning from Umrah, three FIA officials at the airport have also come under scrutiny for selling passenger details on the black market”.
He further informed that there are three FIA officials under investigation for stealing passenger’s data. Out of these three, one is behind bars, the second has been granted bail and the third official is currently on pre-arrest bail. The committee held this meeting for a briefing by the FIA and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on the issue of illegal registration of mobile phones and the misuse of passenger’s data.
The committee also objected to the absence of IT Minister Khalid Maqbool and the IT secretary and said that skipping senate meetings has become a normal practice for the sitting ministers. Senator Mohammad Tahir Bizenjo said, “I chair a committee where the minister for IT was invited five times and he was absent every time”.
Senator Mir Kabeer also raised an agenda item during the meeting but postponed it due to the absence of the IT minister. He said the matter will be discussed when the minister will attend the meeting to answer the questions. Furthermore, the committee criticized the Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS), terming it as an inconvenience and a major problem rather than a facility for Pakistanis bringing mobile phones back to their country.
Senator Rubina Khalid 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”.
Senator Rehman Malik also stated, “This is a flawed system and should be removed completely”, and reminded Senator Rubina that she has the authority to suspend the system and she should do it.
For those who are unaware, as a result of Device Identification Registration and Blocking System and the subsequent taxes applied to smartphones brought in the country through travelers, there has been a rise in stealing of personal information of the travelers. The information is used to register a new smartphone to relieve the taxes being applied to it. But in recent days, the government has announced application of tax on smartphones brought in by travelers too, making this stolen information useless.