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Telecom companies decry Rs 100-200 Million fine for failing to block SIMs of non-filers

The Senate Standing Committee on Finance, chaired by Salim Mandviwala, convened to address concerns raised by telecom companies regarding new budgetary measures imposed by the federal government.

During the meeting, representatives from the telecom industry vehemently opposed the measures, citing burdens imposed without prior consultation. They criticized the government’s decision to penalize non-filers, arguing that these responsibilities were imposed without their consent.

The industry representatives expressed frustration over new directives mandating a 75% withholding tax on phone and internet services for non-filers. They condemned fines ranging from Rs 100 million to Rs 200 million for non-compliance, labeling both the tasks and penalties as illegal and unjust.

“We are not law enforcement agencies,” emphasized a telecom industry representative, arguing that such measures exceed their mandated role and were implemented without prior consultation.

Amjad Zubair Tiwana, Chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), defended the government’s position, stating that these regulations were part of the Finance Bill 2022, duly approved by Parliament. He emphasized the importance of telecom companies complying with the directives within a 15-day timeframe, warning of severe penalties for non-compliance.

Senator Farooq H Naik criticized the punitive nature of the penalties, describing them as unjust and resembling “the law of the jungle.”

The issue has raised concerns among foreign investors in the telecom sector, anxious about the economic implications of such stringent regulations.

As discussions continue, the telecom industry remains steadfast in seeking amendments and a more collaborative approach from the government to address their operational challenges.

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