Globally, the role of Customs is transforming rapidly. Particularly after 9/11, Customs reoriented itself to meet the security challenges arising out of the threat of terrorism, smuggling of sensitive materials and trafficking of small arms, weapons and currency across borders.
The Customs administrations particularly in Europe where personal information is highly confidential finally resolved to retrieve and share the information of individuals with Customs in form of Advanced Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) data to profile the movement of suspected passengers crossing borders particularly at airports.
The Customs of the world progressed speedily on enforcement challenge and the World Customs Organization (WCO) came up with number of instruments and programs to meet the emerging security challenges. The prominent Customs administrations, at first, which reorganized their organizational structures prioritizing security as one of the strategic goals, were the USA, Canada, China and Australian customs. The process of realignment is going on in various other administrations too.
The WCO in addition to development of prominent tools and instruments pertaining to security of supply chain such as SAFE framework including risk management using advance electronic information and Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) system, export controls and exchange of information, initiated specialized security program at the WCO secretariat addressing the needs of emerging security challenges to Customs.
The security programme then initiated various instruments, sub programs and continues to organize number of regional and global operations to effectively implementing the security needs of member administrations. The prominent among the instruments are the database of open source information related to customs functions known as IRIS application, the Intelligence and Information center (I2C) and monthly intelligence reports, which circulate through WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs) to member administrations. On account of sub programs the prominent were the program Global Container Control Program (GCCP) to secure supply chain from infiltration of drugs and precursors which was initiated in collaboration with the UNODC. Secondly, the program Global Shield to control the movement of dual use goods and interdiction of hazardous materials and thirdly the program of Strategic Trade Control Enforcement (STCE) to control the movement of strategic and nuclear materials were spearheaded by the WCO security program office.
Pakistan Customs never stepped back and continuously advanced for the adoption and the implementation of the best practices in customs operations and policies. It achieved number of milestones addressing the rising needs of security of supply chain. The UNODC and the WCO reports repeatedly acknowledged the contributions made by Pakistan Customs in implementation and operation of the Port Control Units (PCUs) at Karachi and Port Qasim, which produced significant outcomes by making some eventful seizure cases of illicit goods and contributed in strengthening security of supply chain. Second, to mention is the program Global Shield and program STCE which attained maturity levels where Pakistan Customs produced number of accredited experts for capacity building of other WCO member countries. Now, the accumulated experience in these areas is being transformed through establishment of the Cargo Targeting Centers (CTC) by Pakistan Customs, in next phase of development.
The security and protection of society will continue to be the major challenges for customs in 2st century. As customs is the front line agency to confront cross border flows of goods, people and transport, therefore, it has to be equipped with right tools and skills to identify and mitigate the security risks involved in the process of regulating trade. Therefore, the WCO security program focused to provide member administrations the required level of capacity and skills to deal with the stringent challenge.
The program is aimed at the policy settings goals, provision of guidance and best practices, periodical global operations, secure information exchange platform Customs Enforcement Network (CEN), Information and Intelligence Center (I2C) and the required technical assistance to customs.
Although, Pakistan Customs has been dealing with all type of security risks while performing its functions at cross border trade points, however, there is increased need for further strengthening risk management system, cooperation with cross border agencies for exchange of information essential for reduction of cost of doing business, regular communication with Customs Enforcement Network utilizing the products of the WCO Security program i.e. IRIS and I2C for better operational law enforcement coordination, efficient utilization of open source and confidential information available at the portals of international organizations for effective interdiction of contraband and illicit materials risky to supply chain so as to ensure highest level of secure trading environment, which has a multiplier effect for trade facilitation and economic development.