Government unable to stop smuggling from Afghanistan

Farhan Zaheer April 20, 2010

KARACHI: The precarious security situation on Pakistan-Afghanistan border routes has made it extremely difficult for the government to stop rampant smuggling, a top tax official said.

Federal Board of Revenue’s Director Intelligence and Investigation Zahid Khokhar said that despite conducting a number of raids on the Quetta- Karachi highway, the volume of smuggling is increasing. He was speaking to the businessmen at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Monday.

The businessmen said the two main smuggling points in Pakistan were Chaman border with Afghanistan and Sust border with China but government’s control over smuggling was not satisfactory. “We will continue to raid godowns in Karachi from where we have confiscated a large quantity of smuggled goods,” Khokhar said.

Without reducing duties on smuggling-prone items, “we cannot get desired results,” he said. Khokhar assured the businessmen that their legally imported goods would not be seized by the FBR at bus stations and entry points in different cities.

The FBR would also not inspect imported goods at upcountry checkpoints, if the KCCI confirmed the identity of the importer, he said. “It is unfair to harass the traders when the government knows the roots of smuggling are on the borders. It is government’s duty to control the smuggling mafia,” a businessman commented.

Accepting the point, Khokhar said “the government is trying hard to stop smuggling along the Chaman and Sust borders. Keeping in mind the challenging situation in Afghanistan, the Government of Pakistan has few choices for stopping the smuggling.” “Give us exact facts and suggestions for duty restructuring for the upcoming federal budget.

If you convince us, our department will forward your recommendations to the FBR,” he added. Tea, tyres and motorcycle spare parts are the three top items being smuggled into Pakistan from Afghanistan and China. “Fifteen to twenty containers filled with motorcycle parts come daily through the Chaman border. Around 1.2 million motorcycles assembled in the country are added to the Pakistan’s market every year,” a businessman said.

Despite knowing everything, the government was not doing anything to curb the smuggling, which wipes off billions of rupees worth of duties from the national kitty, businessmen said. “Without controlling smuggling at the root points, ie the borders, it cannot be stopped and the government will continue to harass small traders and businessmen,” a businessman said.

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