Contraband worth Rs36.4b seized, FBR tells court

Customs accepts inability to curb DTH devices used for broadcasting of Indian content

Hasnaat Malik November 08, 2018

ISLAMABAD: While accepting its inability to curb the direct to home (DTH) devices used for illegal broadcasting of Indian content, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has told the Supreme Court that the customs authorities have seized illegal goods and contraband valued at Rs36.4 billion in the last 15 months.

“The FBR has enhanced enforcement measures, adopted by the customs field formations, resulting in seizures of goods/contrabands worth Rs25 billion including seizure of DTH devices worth Rs24.8 million during Financial Year 2017-18 which represents 168 per cent increase over seizures effected in 2016-17.

“Likewise, Rs11.4 billion have been seized during the first quarter of FY 2018-19 as compared to Rs4 billion goods seized during the corresponding period of the last year,” said a report submitted by a committee which was constituted by the apex court on October 25.

The committee, comprising an FBR member and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) additional director general, was constituted to prepare a plan and conduct necessary raids to recover smuggled DTH devices from the markets in Pakistan.

Later, the FIA director general constituted a joint team compromising the focal persons of the FIA, the FBR and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for the purpose.

“The enforcement operations against the illegal DTH equipment led by customs in coordination with Pemra and the FIA authorities have been successful and as a result huge quantity of smuggled DTH equipment worth Rs78.3 million has been seized from the local markets.”

It said 30 FIRs had been lodged and 39 persons had also been arrested both by Customs and the FIA for further investigations. As a result of the raids, the smuggled DTH equipment has almost disappeared from the local markets.

The committee, however, said mere enforcement measures would not be sufficient to completely root out the transportation and availability of equipment used for illegal broadcasting of Indian content in the country. “A holistic strategy needs to be worked out by all the agencies/regulators to address the issue.”

It said smuggling is not the only source of the DTH equipment in local markets.

Different types of equipment used for satellite reception and broadcasting including LNA (low noise amplifier), NB (low noise block) and digital set boxes are imported on basis of an NOC from Pemra in terms of S No 69 of the Import Policy Order 2016.

It said Pakistan shares long and porous border with Afghanistan and Iran where there is nominal presence of customs and border is mainly manned by other civil armed forces. The law and order situation has made the task of curbing smuggling difficult.

“There are long stretches of borders where Pakistan customs has no presence and even other law enforcement agencies encounter significant difficulties while operating such areas,” it said.

The committee proposed a dedicated Customs Border Force to stop smuggled goods at the borders. Likewise, the FC authorities may be engaged through Interior Ministry to keep a strict vigil at the borders to check flow of such equipment into country.

“Pemra has proposed a technological solution that can effectively disrupt the reception and re-broadcast of Indian content using smuggled DTH equipment or those imported through regular channels after the modifications by the local vendors,” it said.

The process of awarding DTH licenses to successful bidder is in progress which is likely to complete soon. In the absence of local DTH services, subscribers are operating for other means which include Indian DTH services. In order to incentivise the local operators for setting up of their facilities, Pemra has also proposed to grant concessions from duty/taxes for import of equipotent and other accessories, it said.

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