KARACHI: The anti-smuggling drives launched by Pakistan Customs have never been successful in eradicating the illegitimate trade due to several reasons including shortage of human resource, involvement of officers and patronage by political influential.
PTI government increased the manpower at the disposal of Pakistan Customs, but still there is shortage of human as well material resources.
Ground realities are not suitable for Customs staff. When the anti-smuggling (ASO) teams conduct raids, a law and order situation is created by the miscreants hred by traders, and then the traders and smugglers take benefit of such situation before courts.
Although, Customs staff is armed with guns but they are not authorized to shoot. Moreover, the Customs ASO staff is not trained to deal with such situations and smuggler attacks.
The ASO staff should be trained under military. Customs is dependent on Police and other security forces for their raids and operations.
On their own, ASO can only stop vehicles and containers carrying smuggled goods, but whenever they need to raid markets and warehouses they have to seek assistance of Police and security agencies.
Moreover, certain political figures, government officers and trade bodies have their interests linked with illegitimate trade, due to which Customs ASO has to sustain severe pressure.
It is sad to note that the department is never there to support their staff, and those officers and officials are victimized by lawyers, traders and even the officers of the department themselves.
KPK and Baluchistan are the two routes from where smuggled goods come into the country.
The ratio of smuggling via KPK has declined significantly as fence was erected with Afghan border by military. However, the movement of goods from neighboring country is still continuing. The smuggled goods change several hands before reaching their destination.
A smuggling ring is being run by one Noor Aslam, Akbar Khan, Kameez Khan, Kabul Khan and Hazrat Khan around Kohat, who is responsible to safely transport the smuggled goods coming from Afghanistan to Peshawar through Ghulam Khan Check Post in Kohat.
Then Haji Gul Zaman, Sajid Khan, Haji Momin, Babri Khan and Torah Khan and Javed Afridi transport these smuggled goods from Peshawar to Punjab. They have established connections on the entire route and the goods are transported easily without any hindrance.
Similarly, Chashma Khan, Darya Khan, Mannan Sherani, Habibullah, Qari Hamza are involved in smuggling of cloth and the cloth smuggled from Afghanistan to Angoor Ada and onward transportation to cities of Punjab.
Sost border with China in Gilgit-Baltistan is closed for the last two years and there is no smuggling on this route for now. Haji Rafique Taxila wala, Haji Aitbar, Javed Gilgiti, Siddique, Papa Shakeel look after trade of smuggled goods on this route.
In Baluchistan, Chaman border is closed presently and under complete control of military. Noshki Belt (Baloch Belt), is under the control of Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), is now the hot route for the movement of smuggled goods. The smugglers are Afghan or KPK residents, but the BLA provides security to the vehicles carrying smuggled goods.
Moreover, Haji Bismillah, Haji Abdul Rehman, Haji Ballay, Haji Sadiq, Nabi Buksh, Haji Nawaz, Toofan Khan, Sailab Khan, Ahmed Shah, Sher Agha, are involved in transporting smuggled goods from Afghanistan via Baluchistan to Sindh and Punjab.
Auto parts, tyres, cloth, betel nut, dry fruits, spices, electronics, vehicles, chemicals, Chinese salt and other contraband goods are smuggled in large quantity from Afghanistan. Interestingly, none of these goods are made in Afghanistan. These goods are brought to Afghanistan through transit trade and then these goods are smuggled back into Pakistan. Besides, large quantity of Indian goods are imported in Afghanistan through Iran and then these Indian goods find the way into Pakistan by these above mentioned traders/smugglers.
It may be mentioned here that certain parliamentarians and political leaders managed to remove all checks such as scanning and examination of transit goods, stamping of transit goods etc.
Collector Preventive Lahore and Customs I&I Lahore are resisting this illegitimate trade and playing their role in protecting the country’s markets and economy.
In Karachi, Customs I&I and Preventive had controlled movement, distribution and sale of smuggled goods to a significant extent, but certain senior officers systematically broke the entire anti-smuggling network, and now business of smuggled goods is on rise in the cosmopolitan city.
While in Hyderabad, which is the crossing point for all transport to Punjab and Sindh from Baluchistan, Customs is facilitating the smugglers. Although, an honest officer is posted in Hyderabad, but without an efficient team.
Customs Quetta is also actively pursuing anti-smuggling drive, but shortage of resources is hampering their efforts.
It may be mentioned here that Pakistan Customs does not have any database to keep record of the seized non-custom-paid vehicles and vehicles involved in transporting of smuggled goods. Due to this leniency and involvement of Excise and Taxation departments, the vehicles transporting are re-registered with new number plates and documents. This facility is for smugglers only.
There is no agriculture, industry or tourism in Baluchistan, and locals are forced to indulge in illegitimate trade.