The Punjab home department and the federal customs authority appear to be at odds over the clearance process of arms and ammunition at airports across the province.
Accordingly, the provincial department for home affairs has asked the federal agency, which is responsible for collecting tariffs and controlling the flow of goods, into and out of the country, to follow the Punjab Arms Rules 2017.
Under the rules, clearance for inter-district and inter-provincial transfer of arms and ammunition depends on the obtention of a transportation license and a no objection certificate (NOC) from the home department.
According to details available with the Express Tribune, the home department expressed its displeasure and critique of the clearance procedure in a letter to senior customs officials across Punjab, including the federal capital.
Due to lax customs clearance processes, the department wrote, it faced difficulties in effectively monitoring arms and ammunition transfers, resulting in weapons being sent to other districts.
The impact of this is enormous losses of revenue in terms of fees for the Punjab government. Currently, the fees for obtaining a NOC and transportation license for the transfer of arms are fixed at Rs 100 per weapon and Rs 1 per bullet.
The letter from the home department requests the collector customs that in the future, a NOC from the department be sought for customs clearance of arms and ammunition. However, the letter also mentions that it is not mandatory to obtain an NOC for arms importers’ located in the same district in which the airport is situated.
Officials familiar with the matter said that the arms import policy does not require customs officials to seek the no objection certificate and transportation license from the provincial government or district administration before clearance of arms.
According to sources in the customs department, a suggestion was made to the Punjab Home Department that if it wants to make the NOC a condition for customs clearance, it should contact the Federal Ministry of Commerce and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to amend the import policy and until this formal amendment was made the Punjab Police could check for the NOC and license by consulting the consignment papers of imported weapons coming out of the concerned airports.
While there departments in Punjab appear to be at odds on the issue of customs clearance of arms, in contrast, imported arms and ammunition arriving at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi need a certificate and transportation license issued by the Sindh Home Department for customs clearance.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2021.
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