The Supreme Court was informed on Wednesday that a large quantity of smuggled Direct-To-Home (DTH) equipment worth Rs78.3 million was seized from various markets in a countrywide crackdown against illegal devices.
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan was also told that 30 FIRs had been lodged during the crackdown and 39 people arrested by the Customs Department and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
As a result of the nationwide enforcement operations, the commercial sale and availability of smuggled DTH equipment in the local markets had almost ended, said a report furnished before the apex court through Additional Attorney General Nayyar Abbas Rizvi.
The report was submitted in line with a suo motu case relating to easy availability of Indian DTH or magic box in the Pakistani markets. The DTH Satellite TV is the latest technology to deliver digital TV to households.
At the last hearing, the apex court had constituted a committee consisting of member (customs), the FIA’s additional director general and a member of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to find out the source of smuggled goods and to take steps to curb the smuggling.
The report suggested that the customs authorities have been ordered to maintain vigilance on the markets along with sustained enforcement operations to deter the individuals from re-engaging in open sale or distribution of such equipment.
The report recalled that the Federal Board of Revenue has also enhanced enforcement measures adopted by the customs field formations which resulted in seizures of goods and other contraband items, including DTH equipment worth Rs24.8 billion during 2017-18.
In view of the crackdown, the report said, members of the Business Association, Hall Road, Lahore, had assured the government teams that illegal DTH equipment will not be stored or sold in future.
But the report conceded that mere enforcement measures would not be sufficient to completely root out the transportation or availability of DTH equipment used for illegal broadcasting of Indian content in the country. Therefore, a holistic strategy needs to be worked out by all agencies/regulators to address this issue.
Thus the committee proposed measures like Pemra’s suggestion to grant concessions from duty or taxes for the import of equipment and other accessories to successful bidders in the awarding of DTH licences – a process which is in progress and likely to be completed soon.
In the absence of local DTH, the subscribers were opting for other illegal means, which include Indian DTH services, the report feared.
The FIA authorities have also stepped up efforts to dismantle the modalities through which money charged from the subscribers in Pakistan is being siphoned out to India via the UAE. Pemra has been encouraged to share the mobile numbers of the persons involved in the illegal business of DTH-C-Line, including provision of equipment and recharge of accounts, the report said, adding that after the receipt of this information all the FIA field circles engaged in the anti-money laundering investigations will hold inquiries to retrieve more evidence for the registration of cases, arrest of accused persons and for their prosecution, etc.
Pemra has also suggested a technological solution which can effectively disrupt the reception and rebroadcast of Indian content using smuggled DTH equipment or those imported through regular channels after modifications by the local vendors.
But the proposal required support of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority for blocking the internet protocols addresses of the websites which were either running the illegal C-Line/CC-CAM or advertising the illegal Indian DTH in Pakistan, the report said.
It also suggested engaging Frontier Corps through the interior ministry for keeping strict vigilance on borders and to check flow of such equipment into the country. – Dawn