Afghan diplomats irked as Pakistan Customs acts to eradicate smuggling in the garb of ATT

KARACHI: The Consulate General of Afghanistan has approached President Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PAJCCI) expressing dismay over the tightened vigilance by Pakistan Customs on Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) cargo, and enforcement activities thereof.

Transit trade is the biggest source of smuggling as the transit cargo to Afghanistan is pilfered in Pakistan, and there has been no complaints from Afghan importers that their goods were not delivered.

In addition, over 50 percent of the goods that are delivered in Afghanistan are smuggled back into Pakistan.

Recently, on the directives of Director General Transit Trade Sarfaraz Warraich, Director Transit Trade Zeba Azhar started stamping the ATT goods with ‘only for Afghanistan’ marks. This practice has resulted in seizure of huge quantity of transit cargo that had been pilfered in Pakistan.

An official said the import patterns of Afghanistan was highly suspicious, as goods that are not consumed in the neighboring country were being imported in mammoth quantity; which were either pilfered during transit or smuggled back to Pakistan.

According to Customs estimates, around $10 billion worth of smuggled goods find their way in local markets, and that is primarily enabled by the Afghan Transit Trade (ATT).

The Afghan Consulate General in a letter to PAJCCI noted the Customs examination of ATT cargo should be the same as local imports; and the ATT goods should not be sent for lab tests as the same are not to be consumed in Pakistan.

Afghan Consulate General noted that the undeclared goods found in ATT consignments should not be considered mis-declaration, and penalty may be imposed on importer instead of legal action.

Afghan Consulate General has also criticized restrictions on import of electronic products, tyres, tobacco, auto parts and batteries for solar system etc. It may be mentioned here that these restrictions were imposed in view of large scale smuggling of these very goods into Pakistan from Afghanistan and pilferage of the same during transit.

The transit trade agreement with Afghanistan restricts physical examination of ATT cargo at 5 percent, which needs to be revisited in view of the smuggling. An official said the transit trade agreement with Afghanistan needs to be revisited, as it is not serving the interests of Pakistan. ATT has caused irreparable loss to the Pakistan’s economy along with posing security threats to the country.

An official said Afghan importers and even the Afghan government were supporting and patronizing smuggling to cause loss to Pakistan’s economy. The official said Afghan government was actually forwarding the agenda of India and United States, which is not at all in favor of Pakistan or Afghan people.

Pakistan’s security forces have overcome the threat of terrorism and anti-social elements, and now the external hand is targeting Pakistan’s economy. The official said Pakistan’s security forces were keeping vigilance on financial terrorism and tightening controls on transit trade is a part of this strategy.

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