Children and women being used as mules to smuggle goods from Afghanistan to Pakistan

KARACHI: Customs Preventive has caught children and women, whom are being used as mules to transport smuggled goods from Afghanistan to Pakistan on their backs, an official said.

Women and children’s involvement in transporting smuggled goods in recent years has expanded dramatically. A mammoth quantity of goods including cloth, electronics, mobile phones, betelnut, chewing tobacco, cigarettes, auto parts and narcotics are moved into Pakistan from Afghanistan without payment of duties and taxes.

Hundreds of children, women and senior citizen move between Pakistan and Afghanistan every day hiding goods such as cigarettes, chewing tobacco, mobile phones in their clothes and carrying other things including auto parts, batteries, electronics and betelnut etc in their backpacks.

Importers in Afghanistan and Customs Clearing Agents in Pakistan are said to be operating and managing these mules.

Recently, Pakistan Customs has taken stringent measures to curb movement of smuggled goods and fences are also being established on the border, while unfamiliar and remote routes have also been sealed. Earlier, such unfamiliar routes were used to move goods from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

An official said there were many warehouses in Afghanistan’s part of Torkham, which is at a distance of just 2.0 KM from Pakistan’s part of Torkham. Containers imported by Afghan importers land at Karachi or Port Qasim and then these are transported to Afghanistan through transit trade. Pakistan Customs has a dedicated Directorate of Transit Trade to look after this business.

Official said these transit trade containers are emptied at the warehouses in Afghan part of Torkham, and then these goods are smuggled back into Pakistan; this way the importers evade duties and taxes, while government is deprived of its legitimate revenue.

Official said a number of Pakistanis had relations in Afghanistan, and they used to import goods from world over under Transit Trade destined to Afghanistan, only to smuggle these back into Pakistan.

The official said these children, women and senior citizen were being used as mules to smuggle goods after the authorities tightened vigilance and security. An official said the children and women caught in the act informed that around 10-container load of goods were transported into Pakistan in a day by them.

Government recently formed two separate Preventive Collectorates in Quetta and Peshawar to check smuggling as these two stations are highly sensitive because of smuggling from Afghanistan and Iran. These collectorates have been quite efficient against smuggling, and irked with their performance, a notorious smuggler Haji Sadiq Achakzai along with his associates attacked and injured Deputy Collector Abdul Qudoos Sheikh, who later succumbed to his injuries.

An official said the smugglers had grown quite powerful and influential in these areas, and they had ‘setting’ with border security forces, para-military forces, Police, Customs as well as with the politicians, that their consignments are smoothly transported to big urban centers of the country including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad etc.

Meanwhile, around 20 persons led by one Aimal Khan Shinwari, of M/S Al Mateen Customs Clearing Agency forcibly entered the containerized room at Torkham and aggressively asked the Customs staff to stop issuance of Customs Area Entry Pass to the empty containers returning from Afghanistan as it was no more required for the empty containers.

Aimal Khan Shinwari resorted to using filthy language, assaulted Sepoy Bilawal in uniform, snatched the Entry Pass Book and ripped it off. The assailants including Aimal Khan Shinwari, Abdur Razaq Afridi of M/S Transline Customs Agency, Iblan Ali of M/S Saad Abdur Rehman Customs Clearing Agency, Gulab Sinwari of M/s Shah Afzal Customs Clearing Agency, Jamshed Shinwari of M/s Kalam Customs Agency along with other assailants identified as Nawab Sher, Samiullah of M/s Shalman/Pervez Customs Clearing Agency, Najeeb, Nawab Sher, Tawab, Noshad, Asmatullah & Hidayatullah also raided Convoy Section of Transit Trade and rudely asked the staff to stop issuance of Customs Area Entry pass issued to the forward Afghan transit cargo.

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