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Tajikistan Begins to Re-Register SIM Cards

Tajikistan Begins to Re-Register SIM CardsTajikistan Begins to Re-Register SIM Cards

Tajikistan’s mobile operators have begun the process of re-registering all SIM cards as part of a strategy to combat terrorism, according to a report from the country.

The country’s Khovar state news agency this week cited a representative of the government communications agency, Alibek Beknazarov, as saying the policy is intended to uphold security and help investigators solve crimes.

“There are subscribers who have several SIM cards and give them to relatives, friends and acquaintances living abroad. So, when it becomes necessary to do so, it is difficult to find the real user, since the actual person using it is not the registered party,” he said.

“Re-registering SIM cards is indispensable because of the dangers of terrorism. This measure will enable us to create a database of genuine users.”

Re-registering will require phone users to bring passports and the SIM card to official service centers of the mobile companies. SIM cards will be deactivated within a year in the event of the failure to re-register.

Officials say there are already 11 million registered SIM cards in the country; six million of those accounts are used regularly. That figure illustrates that many people own several SIM cards that they use strategically to keep the size of their phone bills down.

One point of apparent concern for Tajik officials is the popularity of local SIM cards with users across the border in northern Afghanistan. That point came up during discussions in parliament late last year, when the chamber was considering the rules about requiring mobile phone users to re-register SIM cards.

Mansurdzhon Umarov, the first deputy head of State National Security Committee, told lawmakers that Tajik SIM cards were being openly sold on markets in Afghanistan.

“We have information that on the border with our country, insurgents with the Afghan Taliban movement are actively using Tajik SIM cards,” he said.

Umarov is likely correct about the popularity of Tajik SIM cards, but the motivation more often stems from cost effectiveness than terrorist intentions. Tajik cell companies offer better rates and, in some instances, better service, than their Afghan counterparts, so people living in cross-border communities see their SIM cards are vastly preferable.

Iran also has had issues with real owners of SIM cards and has on several occasions said it would deactivate lines not owned by the registered party.  

 

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