Federal cabinet approves anti-smuggling ordinance

Ordinance says if customs officials do not respond despite launch of complaint, federal secy for law would take action

Rizwan Ghilzai April 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD: As the government tightens the noose against the hoarders and smugglers, the federal cabinet on Monday approved the anti-smuggling ordinance and sent it to the president for approval.

Sources said that the supply of currency, wheat, atta, sugar, rice and other commodities through undeclared routes had been declared smuggling and the perpetrators and their aiders would be subjected to an imprisonment of 14 years.

According to the ordinance, under the Customs Act, the supply of commodities will be allowed only through the legal routes.

If the customs officials do not respond despite the launch of complaint, the federal secretary for law would take action.

Law minister warns hoarders of strict action

The ordinance was approved by the federal cabinet through circulation summary and sent to President Arif Alvi for signature.

The ordinance will be promulgated after being signed by the president.

Federal Minister for Law and Justice Farogh Naseem, while addressing a news conference in Islamabad, on Sunday, said that besides the customs department, district administrations, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and civil and military intelligence agencies had been assigned special roles in the proposed anti-smuggling ordinance.

Highlighting salient features of the draft ordinance, he said the main objective of bringing the law was to stop smuggling of dollars and essential commodities like wheat, sugar and potatoes through the undeclared routes.

While identifying a couple of undeclared routes, the law minister observed that the items could be smuggled to Afghanistan through undeclared routes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to Iran through Balochistan and to India through a long and porous border with India in Punjab. Similarly, the items could be smuggled out via Karachi.

Anti-hoarding ordinance

He said the smuggling was totally unacceptable at a time when the government was announcing subsidies on various items due to the spread of coronavirus in the country.

Warning that stern action would be taken against those involved in smuggling of essential commodities, the minister said that no one would be allowed to take advantage of the prevailing situation in the wake of the pandemic.

He explained that though the customs would be the focal department to check smuggling, the FBR would be authorised to delegate powers to any agency like Levies Force, Federal Investigation Agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence and Coast Guards to seek their assistance.

Besides this, the district administrations would also be bound under the law to share information pertaining to any act of smuggling or hoarding in their jurisdiction with the relevant institution.

Naseem cautioned that strict action would be taken against the officers who would show negligence on the basis of a “dereliction report” to be prepared by the federal law secretary.

He revealed that the accused persons would face summary trial and for this purpose special judges would be appointed after consultations with the chief justice of Pakistan.

These judges will have qualifications equal to district judges and additional district judges.

He said the government had already promulgated an ordinance against hoarding and profiteering which suggested severe punishment to those found hoarding essential items like sugar, wheat, flour, ghee, medicines, sanitisers, face masks and gloves.