KARACHI: After years of controversy over smuggled vehicles being registered in Sindh, the provincial Excise and Taxation Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla confirmed on Tuesday that such vehicles were indeed registered, but that his department has now cancelled the registration after an inquiry. "Reports about the huge number of smuggled (non-Customs cleared) vehicles registered in Karachi are baseless," said Chawla. "Yes, we conducted an inquiry and found that 45 vehicles were illegally registered here. We have taken action and cancelled their registration," he added while responding to a query of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MPA Saeed Afridi.
When asked how these vehicles were allowed to be registered and why action was not taken against the officials involved in the matter, the minister responded, "The same vehicles are in Islamabad. Please ask your Punjab government to take action."
Earlier, Afridi, in his supplementary question on the issue, said that around 457 non-Customs cleared vehicles have been registered by the Excise and Taxation department in the last few years. He asked the excise minister to brief the house on why an official involved in the scam has been promoted to a senior position.
Traders protest confiscation of ‘smuggled’ cloth in Karachi
The allegations of corruption in the Excise and Taxation department and counter-allegations by the Pakistan Peoples Party MPAs dominated the assembly proceedings. Another PTI MPA, Khurrum Sher Zaman, and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan MPA Javed Hanif insisted that no file moved without corruption in the department. "Excise officials demand Rs6,000 as 'sweets' for the registration of each vehicle. Around 39,000 vehicles have been registered and Rs80 to Rs90 million have been generated from it," Zaman alleged, adding that once he had visited the Excise office and employees involved in the practice had gone into hiding.
Responding to him, Chawla said, "It looks like Khurrum Sher Zaman has worked as a middleman. The way he talks and gives proper figures in this house is really funny".
Javed Hanif, a bureaucrat turned politician who has also served as secretary in various government departments endorsed Zaman's views. "Zaman is right. Huge amounts in corruption are being charged by people working in various sections of this department."
At this, Chawla stood up from his chair and addressing speaker Agha Siraj Durani, said, "Javed Hanif has also served as secretary of the department. I want to know how much amount was fixed during his tenure," he remarked. On this, the speaker asked the members to refrain from leveling allegations against each other and confine the discussion to the agenda.
Trump brushes off report of smugglers cutting through border wall
Responding to another MPA's question, the excise and taxation minister said that not a single vehicle was registered in the Mirpurkhas division in the first six months of last year (2018). He added, however, that a total of 220,557 cars, buses and motorbikes were registered during the same time in Karachi and the government had earned around Rs1.95 billion from the transactions.
Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho informed the house that around 39 cases of Congo virus had been reported in Karachi in the current year. She blamed the spread of the disease due to the animals that were brought to the city from various parts of the country. She said that the livestock department normally starts spraying in the animal markets and advised private farmhouses to follow the guidelines and start spraying to get rid of this virus.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2019.