KARACHI: The government has decided to expand the ambit of transit trade beyond Afghanistan, and Directorate General of Transit Trade (DGTT) will take all necessary measures to ensure clearance of green channel goods declarations within 24 hours and red channel goods declarations within 72 hours.
A meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan recently, approved several recommendations and proposals presented by Director General Transit Trade Sarfaraz Warraich. An official said Director Karachi Zeba Azhar and Additional Director Rehmatullah Vistro, on the instructions of Sarfaraz Warraich, conducted a lot of research and came up with proposals to make transit trade more efficient.
Regulatory Framework for International Transit Trade would soon be notified. The Directorate General of Transit Trade, to be based in Karachi, shall be responsible for enforcement of all the international agreements, treaties and conventions and domestic laws, rules and procedures relating to transit trade with reference to cross border movement of bonded cargo and domestic laws, rules and procedures relating to transshipment with reference to inland movement of bonded cargo and shall also be responsible for enforcement of all laws, rules and procedures relating to international transshipment through the respective Directorates and Collectorates.
The Directorate General shall supervise the functioning of the Directorates, furnish policy input to the Board on matters relating to transit trade and transshipments and maintain liaison with all stakeholders.
It may be mentioned here that Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has already unveiled new procedures to curb mispricing of transit cargoes.
The Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) procedures would ensure safe transportation of transit goods to or from seaports to dry ports to check mis-declaration and under-invoicing. Under the new mechanism, only authorised bonded carriers with their approved vehicles would be able to transport the transit cargoes.
The licensing authority, to be chaired by Director Transit Trade Karachi, shall also take into account the profile of the bonded carrier based upon rating of the transporters linked with their compliance to the rules and procedures which may include compliance to the time lines, number of alerts generated or transit cargo carried safely without en-route pilferage, number of contravention / seizure reports etc.
Pilferage of goods was reported and the authorities were unable to recover the goods. Goods arrived at sea ports were found being cleared without assessment and examination to the goods marked for transshipment. Sometimes goods declared at seaports were changed when declaration made at dry ports.
In order to plug the loopholes and curb smuggling, Director General Sarfaraz Warraich made a detailed presentation before Prime Minister Imran Khan, and the recommendations were approved and notified by FBR.
Under the new procedure, if a transport unit meets an accident or the transport carriers spend unusual time then trekker operation would generate alert for comprehensive examination of the transport.
Under the procedure for safe transportation, the sealing and desealing of International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF) containers would be done through customs machine readable seal in Karachi. The route for ISAF cargo would be defined by Pakistan Customs Container Security System (PCCSS).
The FBR also laid down procedure for sealing of transit trade containers, destined for Wagah border station for India, at Torkham-Peshawar and Chaman-Quetta borders.
For transportation of export cargo from dry ports to seaports, the customs authorities would ensure seals are intact at the time of shipment.
Smuggling would drastically be reduced with the implementation of PCCSS. Besides, the advance technology of en-route monitoring through trekking devices would prevent revenue losses.
The cross-border trade with landlocked Afghanistan slowed in the recent past due to strict monitoring and increasing cost of transit and bilateral trade. Exports to Afghanistan declined to $789.4 million in the July-March period of FY2020, compared to $885.8 million in the corresponding period a year earlier. Imports, during the period, slid to $111.6 million from $131.7 million.
Around 10,000 containers of Afghan transit trade land at Pakistan’s port every month. The Chaman border was closed on March 3 stranding 1,600 vehicles en-route. Torkham border was closed on March 16 and 400 more vehicles were stranded.
Enhanced transit trade will benefit Pakistan, if smuggling in the garb of transit trade is stopped.
President Dr Arif Alvi Friday promulgated Anti-Smuggling Ordinance, 2020, into law to tighten noose around smugglers of currency and essential commodities.
According to the anti-smuggling ordinance, which was sent to the president for signature after approval of the federal cabinet, those found supplying currency, wheat, flour, rice, and other essential food items through illegal routes would be treated as smugglers, and would face imprisonment up to 14 years.
The ordinance further described that a person found smuggling Rs3 million worth of commodities would face up to two-year in jail, while smugglers of Rs5 million worth of essential items would be imprisoned for three years.
The ordinance also stipulates five-year imprisonment for smuggling of commodities worth Rs7.5 million, 10-year imprisonment for smuggling of items whose value range from Rs7.5 to Rs10 million, and 14-year jail term for smuggling of commodities worth more than Rs10 million.