ISLAMABAD: The menace of smuggling continues to bleed the national economy without let and hindrance while the authorities concerned have failed to rise to the challenge and adopted tangible measures to check its operation.
Moreover, the dream of creation of a dedicated Customs Border Force (CBF) to check smuggling on borders with Afghanistan and Iran could not be materialized so far although it has been part of the FBR anti-smuggling strategy for the last few years.
It is to be noted that in the past former FBR chairman Ali Arshad Hakeem had proposed the establishment of a new Border Force during the visit of the then PM Yousuf Raza Gilani to FBR House. He also proposed that new initiatives by underling the setting up of border surveillance infrastructure and 10,000-strong Border Force to effectively curb cross-border smuggling.
The same proposal was also advocated by senior economist Dr Hafeez A Pasha during a recent workshop titled “Study to design the revamped/reformed FBR strategy.” The commission constituted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on ”smuggling of arms and ammunition” also recommended that the government will appoint a Committee of officers of Pakistan Customs to conduct need assessment and recommend ways and means to raise Customs Force fully trained and equipped with all wherewithal including speed-boats, surveillance crafts, communication network and arms and ammunition.
Similarly recommendations made in the international workshop on “Accelerating Tax Reforms” organized in collaboration with the World Bank on February 23, 2013, former FBR Member Customs and Director General Intelligence and Investigation Customs Muhammad Riaz made recommendations on behalf of Group-4 Benchmarking Customs and Border Management. He recommended the establishment of a customs border office to comprehensively cover borders, and create new customs areas at Torkhum and Chaman. Customs also recommended significant increase in customs coverage on Pak-Iran border in Balochistan with marine presence and coastal surveillance in Balochistan and Sindh. It also recommended to significantly increase customs coverage on Pak-Afghan border (FATA Region) and Northern Areas.
Under the anti-smuggling strategy, a well-trained force will ensure effective law enforcement in the border areas of Balochistan as well as KPK and along the Sindh coastal belt. Similarly addition to the new force, Customs Border Patrolling Posts can be established. However, until the new force is not set up, the FBR has proposed the setting up of joint checkposts of Pakistan Customs and the law enforcement agencies to conduct anti-smuggling activities on borders.
Overall monitoring of campaign against the smuggled vehicles and contraband goods will be carried out by the Directorate General I&I-FBR. The agency will associate the Collectorates whenever required in view of meager human and logistic resources of regional/range offices of the DG I&I FBR.
Till a fully trained and equipped Custom Force is raised, PCGs and MSA may be entrusted with the powers of anti-smuggling only on the high seas under the provisions of Section 6 of the Customs Act, 1969. These agencies “shall” also be assigned the targets for seizure of narcotics, gold, liquor, arms and ammunition, etc on yearly basis, the commission added.