KARACHI: Pakistan has decided to block all new mobile phones – brought into the country through illegal means – by year end as the federal cabinet on Friday set the deadline of December 31, 2018 for blocking all such phones.

“The cabinet decided to impose a ban on new mobile phones to be smuggled into the country after Dec 31,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said in a press conference. He exp­lain­ed that mobile phones that have already been brought into the country before the deadline, even through illegal means, can be used, but after Dec 31 no such sets will be allowed to be operational. The minister said the cabinet has also decided to promote the local mobile phone industry and therefore a ban could be imposed on even the import of mobile phones in the next phase.

It may be recalled the government in October this year had decided in principle to introduce regulatory duty (RD) with a minor penalty for unregistered used mobile phone sets depending upon the category they belong to, Dawn has learnt. The blocked mobile phone could be unblocked only following the payment of RD along with the penalty at the nearest customs point.

Approximately, it has been estimated that imports of illegal phones in the market cause roughly $1.5 billion in revenue losses to the government exchequer annually.

For the last years, Green Channel facility has served the primary benefactor of unscrupulous elements as a flood of high-value, high-tariff and even contrabands were cleared through green channel through mis-declaration causing a loss to the national exchequer.

Local mobile markets particularly in Saddar area Karachi are flooded with smuggled goods worth hundreds of millions. Customs authorities have time and again attempted to raid these mobile markets, but there has not been any major crack-down as the market associations and trade bodies resort to violence and protests causing law & order situation.

However, Customs Preventive Karachi and other anti-smuggling organizations have kept strict control on the influx of smuggled and non-duty paid mobile phones in the country.

An official said Pakistan is the biggest market of made in China mobile phones, and Qmobile, the most sold mobile phone in Pakistan, was the most smuggled phone as well. Customs authorities detected and seized mammoth quantity of smuggled Qmobile phones lately and several cases were registered against M/s Digicom.

Other than that large quantity of assorted brand mobile phones including Iphone, Samsung, Huawei etc. are smuggled into the country through various channels particularly by air passengers coming from Dubai mostly.