Complaints over Pakistan’s new mobile phone registration system emerge

A number of travellers have raised complaints over Pakistan’s newly implemented mobile phone policy. A few months ago, Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar announced that travellers from abroad will have to pay duties and taxes for carrying more than one mobile phone for personal use. A maximum of five mobile phones can be brought in a year, but only one will be exempt from customs duty.

Additionally, inbound passengers carrying mobile phones that aren’t recognised by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) will have to register them. Unregistered phones may refer to devices that are entering Pakistan for the first time or phones purchased in the country after Dec. 1, 2018. The federal minister clarified that all mobile phones activated before this specified date have already been registered to the PTA by their respective networks.

According to Khaleej Times, several travellers, including Pakistani expats, have expressed concern and confusion over the new policy. One passenger complained that he had to pay a tax of Rs. 10,000 for his budget phone. Another traveller from Dubai also pointed out the lack of registration counters at the airport.

The intention behind the new policy is for the government to control the influx of smuggled mobile devices. Responding to the negative feedback, the government has said that it is considering smaller fines and the possibility of allowing two duty free phones. It is also working on an app that would allow travellers to register their mobile phones beforehand.

Addressing these shortcomings in due time will be crucial for Pakistan. Statistics from the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) revealed that the country received 1.75 million tourists in 2017. 70% of these travellers were international. Naturally, the country’s mobile phone rule in its current state could lead to tourists forming bad impressions as soon they arrive at the airport.

Also worth noting is that foreign visitors to Pakistan do not just visit for leisure. The country also hosts various international events and conferences. A quick look at World Conference Alerts shows that Pakistan will be holding several science-related conferences this 2019.

The largest gaming tournament in the country, GameBird Game Fest 2018, also recently concluded in Lahore. The tournament involved gamers from all over the country participating in a variety of gaming categories, including mobile gaming. In future gaming tournaments, participants from abroad who want to join may have to be subjected to the strict mobile phone policy. What’s more, gaming resources online have indicated that there are gaming tournaments held purely online and that participants can get their winnings through mobile means. Gamers in Pakistan with new phones would not be able to enjoy such options without registering their phones.

A more defined mobile phone registration process would benefit returning expats, tourists, and people travelling for business or event purposes. Registration counters and options to register beforehand may help ease the process as well. In the meantime though, visitors will likely continue to complain about the unnecessary hassles involving their mobile phones.

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