Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Wednesday grilled the chief of the Federal Board of Revenue for not clarifying facts pertaining to the allegedly missing 19,000 Nato containers before the US ambassador to Pakistan.
During a hearing of the Karachi law and order case at the Supreme Court’s Karachi registry, the bench led by the chief justice himself directed FBR Chairman Tariq Bajwa to submit the details of the letter sent to his office by the American envoy, who had denied reports that any containers carrying supplies for Nato and US forces in Afghanistan had gone missing in Pakistan.
While giving the directions, the bench members noted that the inquiry of the commission led by Shoaib Suddle had determined 19,000 containers did go missing and asked the FBR chief as to why this information was not shared with the US envoy.
“You should have taken him (to US ambassador) to Peshawar’s Karkhano market and shown him how large quantities of smuggled weapons are being sold openly. The whole country has many such markets now,” Justice Chaudhry observed.
He said the government should have acted in a manner befitting a sovereign state. “We must give a clear impression that our institutions are clear and the judiciary is independent.”
The chief justice also noted that black money was circulating openly in Karachi and, along with smuggled weapons and contraband, was fuelling violence in the metropolis. He said violence in the city was not ethnically motivated and was instead a turf-war between various mafias.
“It is quite surprising for us that while all law enforcement agencies are fully aware that the mafias are responsible for the law and order situation [in Karachi], but instead of taking any preventive measures, they all try to justify why no action has been taken so far,” Justice Chaudhry observed.
His statement came after Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) Director General Maj Gen Malik Zafar Iqbal, Brigadier Shehzad Akhtar of the Pakistan Coast Guards (PCG) and Afzal Ahmed of the Maritime Security Agency (MSA) told the bench that their respective agencies were handicapped in dealing with the smuggling of arms and drugs ever since the interior ministry curbed their powers.
The bench ordered the heads of the Customs, ANF, MSA, PCG, police and Rangers to assist the provincial government in restoring peace in Karachi. It directed Attorney General Munir A Malik to hold a meeting with the heads of the provincial and federal agencies and the interior secretary today (Thursday) to come up with a plan in this regard.
Meanwhile, the bench questioned the FBR chairman over why the net of taxes and duties on imports had not been widened. It also asked what action had been taken against FBR officers responsible for the failure of the World Bank-funded tax reforms project. The court asked the FBR chief to recruit 1,500 retired SSG commandos to enhance the tax recovery ratio, as proposed by the Ramzan Bhatti Commission.
Tariq Bajwa said FBR had already requested the government and the prime minister to allow recruitments and provide necessary equipment to the Customs Department, but the ban on fresh hiring was a hindrance.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2013.