Pakistan blocks 210,000 SIM cards to encourage tax payment

Pakistan’s tax authority said on Thursday it has blocked 210,000 SIM cards of users who have not filed tax returns in a bid to widen the revenue bracket.

Only 5.2 million people of the more than 240 million population filed income tax returns in 2022.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) passed the edict in April and has since sent orders to the telecommunications authority to block the connections of 210,000 SIM cards, with 62,000 of them later restored, according to the board’s data.

“We have unblocked the SIMs of those who have paid their taxes,” FBR public relations official Bakhtiar Muhammad said.

“Nobody voluntarily comes up and pays taxes. We have to make ways for the people to pay their taxes.”

Pakistan has more than 192 million mobile phone subscribers and four telecommunications service providers, according to the telecommunication authority.

Pakistanis must register a SIM card with their national identity number, which is often used for multiple connections.

“Access to telecom services is a basic human right and essential for many other fundamental services, including access to information, education, and emergency services,” an official at one of the four telecommunications companies told AFP.