KARACHI: The Anti-Smuggling Organization (ASO) of MCC Preventive Karachi has seized cloth valuing Rs10 million in a raid conducted at Jama Cloth market after Saturday mid-night. The seized cloth is smuggled and is marked with Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) stamps. On the directives of Collector Saquib Saeed, Deputy Collector Akbar Jan led a raiding party and caught red-handed three trucks while being de-stuffed at Jama Cloth market. The traders resorted to resistance and aerial firing. Customs however arrested one shop keeper Mufeez and two loaders. According to Ministry of Commerce, there has been a 17 percent decline in imports during the month of October 2019. This reduction in legal imports is due to excessive duty/taxes and other non-tariff barriers imposed by the government. An official said there has been a significant increase in the influx of smuggled goods and quantum of imports under Afghan Transit Trade (ATT). A major portion of Afghan Transit Trade is smuggled back into Pakistan or pilfered during transit. After the raid at Jama Cloth market, traders resorted to protest and staged a sit-in at M.A Jinnah Road. Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered all anti-smuggling organizations and departments that smuggled goods should not be sold at markets. Traders protesting and agitating against Customs’ operations against smuggled goods would be treated as partners and facilitators in Karachi. The importers and traders have been warned against dealings with elements involved in delivering smuggled goods on ‘done’ basis. An official said the authorities are of the view that there should be a fair and healthy competition in the market based on quality and not on price. Traders dealing in smuggled goods lucrative discounts as against legitimate businessmen paying all duties and taxes. It is the practice of traders and trade bodies that whenever authorities conduct raids and take action against smuggled goods, these market associations and trade bodies resort to agitation and create law & order situation to pressurize the authorities. In past even the Rangers had to back-off after traders resorted to severe protests following raids on mobile market and electronics market in Saddar area. An office bearer of the Jama Cloth market association admitted that the smuggled goods were being transported to markets in Karachi from Afghan border under the patronage of corrupt Customs officials and other agencies entrusted with anti-smuggling and border security. The office bearer said the trucks seized by Customs had come from Sohrab Goth, which confirms that these were ATT goods as there is no dry port in Sohrab Goth or nearby areas. Had these goods were legally imported the same should have come to Jama Cloth market from port area. An official said government seemed helpless in controlling the influx of smuggled goods, which were somehow reaching to markets in Karachi and other urban centers from Afghan and Iran borders. Therefore, authorities imposed the condition of providing CNIC copy on transactions above Rs50,000, which was actually aimed at discouraging trade in smuggled goods. However, the government succumbed to traders’ pressure and relaxed CNIC condition. Now the FBR strategy has changed and raids will be regularly conducted at markets housing smuggled goods such as Jodia Bazar, Gul Plaza, electronics markets, cloth markets including Tariq Road, mobile markets etc.