The Pakistani government has extended its deadline for citizens’ enrolment in its biometric registry of cellphone users, and progress continues apace, according to an Arab News article by Asif Shahzad. At the urging of the country’s major cellular providers, the government has pushed the deadline back from February 26 to April 13.
The project was implemented in the wake of the tragic Peshawar massacre committed by the Taliban in December, since at least some of the cell phones used to coordinate the attack were found to have been obtained under assumed identities. Now, the government has made it a requirement for cell phone users to register their biometric data with participating network providers in order to ensure their SIM cards are not cancelled. While the government had initially hoped to have the project completed near the end of this month, long queues and lagging enrolment have made the network providers desperate for more time, lest they lose huge chunks of their customer bases.
It is a massive undertaking, but also part of a general trend that has seen increased interest in biometrics in the region. Last fall the Pakistani government announced plans to use the technology to improve security in the country’s banking sector, while earlier this year authorities in Balochistan province were considering biometric security for their police force’s weapons cache. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s neighbour India is pioneering the biggest state-led biometrics project in the world.