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Crackdown on smuggling planned

Special Assistant to PM on Revenues Tariq Pasha. APP/File
Special Assistant to PM on Revenues Tariq Pasha. APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to launch a crackdown on those who are playing any role in facilitating multi-billion dollar smuggling from Pakistan into Afghanistan in the shape of illegal currency, wheat and urea, and all those items on which the Regulatory Duty is imposed by the government of Pakistan.

The government has firmed up its numbers of currency smuggling from Pakistan into Afghanistan and now intelligence agencies, including the ISI, the FIA and the Customs Intelligence, have been directed to come up with a roadmap next week for launching stern action against the smugglers. Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar had assigned Special Assistant to PM on Revenues Tariq Pasha to ascertain figures of dollar, wheat and urea smuggling into Afghanistan through Peshawar and bordering areas.

Now Pasha has come up with a whopping figure worth billions of dollars (at least in the range of over $1billion to $2 billion) on the basis of different scenarios as this kind of haemorrhage needs to be curtailed. Pasha disguised himself and visited currency markets in Peshawar to ascertain methods for firming up figures on smuggling from Pakistan. Although government officials are tight-lipped, one told this scribe that the whole figure ran into multi-billion dollars and added in the same breath that the government did not share any figure during official meetings. It’s ironic that the government utilized hard-earned dollars on the import of wheat and gave subsidy on urea, but they were being smuggled into Afghanistan.

During the meetings, it was highlighted that the misuse of Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) continued as all those items on which Islamabad slapped Regulatory Duty were being brought in the guise of ATT. Pakistani has been giving proposals to Afghanistan for the collection of duty and taxes at the Karachi port, but the Afghan side was not agreeing to any such proposals. All other proposals failed to deliver because most of these products were smuggled back into Pakistan in abundance. The meetings also discussed possibilities for strengthening laws to penalize smugglers causing heavy losses to the national exchequer.

According to an official press statement issued by the Ministry of Finance, Dar chaired an inter-ministerial meeting on the economic situation of the country at the Finance Division on Friday. Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar, Tariq Bajwa, Tariq Pasha, Governor SBP, Secretary Finance, Secretary Interior, Chairman FBR, DG FIA, DG I&I Customs and senior officers from the Finance Division and intelligence agencies attended the meeting which reviewed the economic situation, current mechanism for foreign currency and wheat and urea smuggling. Various measures were discussed to strengthen anti- smuggling regime.

The Finance minister stressed the need for coordination among all necessary platforms for this purpose. He asked the relevant authorities to devise a robust and proactive roadmap to curb cross-border smuggling to bring financial stability in the country. The participants appreciated Dar for taking measures for tackling the current economic situation and assured support for ensuring a smooth and sustainable economic growth, the statement concluded.

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