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Telecom Companies to fine Rs.100-200m upon failing to block SIMS of non-filers.

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

 During the meeting, representatives from the telecom industry expressed vehement opposition during the session, citing undue burdens placed upon them without prior consultation.

Highlighting their grievances, telecom industry representatives criticised the government’s decision to penalise non-filers. They argued that these responsibilities were thrust upon them without their consent or involvement in the decision-making process.

The representatives expressed frustration over new government directives requiring them to deduct 75% withholding tax on phone and internet services for non-filers. They criticized the imposed fines of Rs 100 million to Rs 200 million for non-compliance, labeling both the task and penalties as illegal and unjust.

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

Chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Amjad Zubair Tiwana, defended the government’s stance, affirming that these regulations were enacted under the Finance Bill 2022 and duly approved by Parliament.

He underscored the necessity of telecom companies complying with the new directives within a strict 15-day timeframe, warning of severe penalties for non-compliance.

The debate also drew attention from Senator Farooq H Naik, who criticized the punitive nature of the penalties, labeling them as unjust and akin to “the law of the jungle.”

The contentious issue has sparked anxiety among foreign investors in the telecom sector, who fear the economic repercussions of such stringent regulations.

As deliberations continue, the telecom industry remains resolute in seeking amendments and a more collaborative approach from the government to mitigate their operational challenges.