ISLAMABAD: It could take over three months before the government can connect to the servers of cellular phone operators to monitor the taxes which these companies charge their customers, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) told a parliamentary committee on Thursday.

“The FBR has installed a mechanism and dedicated independent servers to connect with the systems of mobile service operators.

There are compatibility problems, however. The companies have to upgrade their systems in order to link with the system installed at the FBR,” the FBR’s Member IT Nausheen Javed Amjad told the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology.

For more than three years now, the parliamentary committee has been asking the FBR to check the taxes which cellular service providers charge their subscribers. Parliamentarians have reason to believe these companies are evading taxes.

Awami National Party Senator Rubina Khalid said these companies charge their customers withholding tax and other charges but do not deposit the amount collected in the government treasury.

Time and again FBR representatives have failed in furnishing details of the taxes charged, especially on pre-paid SIMs, and the amount actually paid to the government.

According to Ms Amjad, the cellular companies have said that massive new instruments were required to upgrade their systems to make them compatible with the system installed by the FBR.

FBR Large Taxpayer Unit Commissioner Dr Amir Talpur told the committee the government did not know how much cellular service providers were charging customers in the name of various taxes including withholding tax which is why parliamentarians suspected these companies were evading taxes.

The committee asked the FBR to expedite the process of obtaining real time information from the operators and monitoring the taxes they charge.

The committee also discussed the matter of the suspension of cellular service in the Mohmand Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the suspension of Internet and PTCL services in the area.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Dr Ismail Shah said his office had no role in the suspension of these services.

“The interior ministry and the law enforcement agencies are in a better position to answer this question.

PTA is not consulted in regards to the suspension of telecom services anywhere and does not know about the situation on ground,” he said.

Asked about cellular signals coming in from Afghanistan across the border into Pakistan, Dr Shah said it was not possible to stop them from coming into the country.

“The PTA has taken the matter up with the Foreign Office and with the regulatory body in Afghanistan to resolve the matter,” he said.