Looking through the lenses of fleeting times, this year’s slogan of World Customs Organization (WCO) of “Customs Fostering Sustainability for people, prosperity and planet”, seems to resonate with few noteworthy developments of the preceding year. In bolstering these WCO objectives, Pakistan Customs has played a tremendously pivotal role in combating the illicit trade and smuggling of goods and cash, keeping under-invoicing and over-invoicing -in-check, protecting the masses from spurious medicines/psychotropic/intoxicating drugs and counterfeit products, and shielding the ozone layer from emission of hazardous chemicals.Lastly,an immortal sacrifice and everlasting contribution to the cause of curbing black economy was made by the  Deputy Collector of MCC Quetta, Abdul Qudoos Sheikh, rendering his life in the line of duty, last year.

The operational arm of Pakistan Customs has taken vigorous actions to counter illicit movement of currency, which is the primary tool used for money laundering. The lead taken by Customs Operations FBR, and the effective control measures implemented by enforcement collectorates against currency smuggling has led to record seizures of approx. Rs. 450 million during July 2018 to April 2019, against seizures of Rs.150 million in the corresponding period last year, exhibiting an increase of more than 200%. During the year 2019, more than 30 persons have been arrested for currency smuggling, with ongoing investigations to unearth their domestic/international linkages. This remarkable achievement is a result of various policy and institutional measures taken under Customs Operations – FBR and the field formations. After an overall assessment of risks of Cash Smuggling through border areas and entry points, the Customs Operations – FBR is embarked upon an extensive ‘Risk Mitigation Strategy’ to curb cash smuggling.

A new Directorate of Cross Border Currency Movement (CBCM), was also established under Directorate General (I & I-Customs), through Customs General Order (CGO) 04/2019 dated 06.05.2019.The CGO defines its charter and scope of functions such as, analysis and profiling of currency seizures/declarations, suspected banking transactions, maintenance of seizure database and sharing of currency seizure cases with other Law Enforcement Agencies, institution of money-laundering cases emanating from suspicious banking transactions and investigation and prosecution of cases under AML Act, 2010, Customs Act, 1969 and CrPC. Under the said order, the guidelines have also been provided to the Investigative Officers for improving investigations such as investigation of accused/arrested person(s) association with any religious/political/social organization or group(s), travel history, past criminal record, professional history, etc., along with the motive/linkages of each currency smuggling case with any of the associated offence, identification of involvement of any foreign networks other than trans-national terrorist networks in the seizures data. In addition, an Office Order 01/2019 dated 10.04.2019 was issued, providing a proper mechanism for investigating officers of seizing agency to conduct initial probe of Terror Financing (TF) linkages in all currency seizures, and sharing it with the relevant LEA, through Directorates of CBCM.

In another significant case of a largest seizure of a novel kind for Pakistan, customs authorities confiscated 18,000 kilogrammes of the smuggled refrigerant (R-22 also known as HCFC-22 refrigerant, a powerful ozone-depleting substance and greenhouse gas) at Karachi Port in mid-October, as was also reported in United Nations Environment Programme publications, 2019. Countries around the world are phasing out hydro chloro-fluorocarbons like R-22 under the Montreal Protocol, the treaty that protects the ozone layer. According to the latest Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion, actions taken under the Montreal Protocol are resulting in steady, long-term decreases in the atmospheric abundance of controlled ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) and the ongoing recovery of stratospheric ozone at a rate of 1 to 3 per cent per decade since 2000.

“All credit to Pakistan’s customs and the National Ozone Unit in the Ministry of Climate Change, for taking action to prevent this destructive shipment from getting to its intended destination. The ozone layer has been healing thanks to the Montreal Protocol, strict regulations against ozone-depleting substances like R-22 and strong enforcement”,remarked Dechen Tsering, UN Environment’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific(UN Environment Programme Publication,2019).

The Directorate General of IPR Enforcement (Pakistan Customs) which was established for enforcement of IPR laws of Pakistan especially at the import and export stage, has made massive seizures in the protection of society and masses at large,hence forwarding the mission and core values of World Intellectual Property organization (WIPO).

The Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is one of the three pillars of WTO and include Copyright, Industrial designs & IC layouts, Trade Marks, Patents, Geographical indications etc,and the directorate through its many seizures has safeguarded the interests of business communities especially those of Multinationals operating in the country, while simultaneously blocking the entry of hazardous counterfeit products in the markets which would otherwise have endangered the public safety. Pakistan also clinched top position in Joint Customs Operations (JCO) final report wherein 38 countries from Europe and Asia presented their performance against counterfeit and infringing “fast moving consumer goods’ at HYGIEA Rome, in 2019.

Towards the end of year 2019, MCC Islamabad, made remarkable advances by seizing expired and spurious medicines, substandard antibiotics/fake supplements and large quantity of drugs from different pharmacies of the city. The masses were henceforth saved from the adversarial medicinal effects of these confiscated items.

United Nations offices on Drugs and Crime(UNODC), in the beginning of the year 2020,has also committed to expanding its technical support to the Government of Pakistan, in addressing its priority needs and vision to attain Sustainable Development Goal 16: ‘Promoting Peace, Justice, and Institutional Development’. In the recent meeting at MCC Preventive, Karachi, the officials of UNODC were sensitized about Pakistan Customs’ wider mandate, particularly its lead on anti-smuggling efforts in the country, as recently delegated by the Prime Minister. Furthermore, the officials were also briefed that Pakistan Customs also has jurisdiction at sea, and operates across 200 nautical miles and it  prevents smuggling activities independently through port control units , as well as in collaboration with Postal Guards and Pakistan Marine Security Agency, as well as the fact that border check posts also curtail illicit drug and contrabands trafficking.

The sustainability of enabling and conducive factors and diminishing destructive factors, result in the longevity of the organism. Through such aforementioned measures, and timely interventions, Pakistan Customs has fostered sustainability and has endeavored to diminish the destructive forces for people, prosperity and the environment. The enhancement of organizational resources, technical capacity building drives, and continued governmental support would further augment the achievement of WCO objectives, besides keeping the morale of the service higher than ever.