Customs officers in Baluchistan have expressed their helplessness in controlling the smuggling of diesel and other commodities, citing the complete patronage and support provided to smugglers by the District Administration. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had sought comments from field formations on smuggling in the region, and officers noted that Customs was not receiving any assistance from the police, border agencies, or district administration.
In fact, Customs officers claimed that the District Administration had even allotted a weekly quota to over 180 vehicles to transport and distribute smuggled fuel and other goods. These vehicles are issued special stickers by the District Administration to be pasted on their windshields, providing them immunity against confiscation by Customs.
Deputy Commissioners of Turbat, Gwadar and Naushki issue these quota. An official said there were very little fuel stations in Baluchistan of Oil Marketing Companies [OMCs]. These quotas are allotted to meet the fuel demands of local population. But in the garb of it, huge scale smuggling is underway.
To recall, Tariq Huda in 2003 had launched a crackdown on illegal fuel stations and demolished over 2,000 illegal fuel stations, and smuggling had almost ended. But, the momentum was not maintained and now business of smuggled fuel is on peak again.
Customs officers have also claimed that whenever they took action against such vehicles, the District Administration intervened and pressurized Customs to call off their anti-smuggling operation, citing law and order concerns created by the smugglers and their associates. This has made it extremely difficult for Customs to control the smuggling of diesel and other commodities in Baluchistan.
In a recent development, Customs Collectors were transferred and posted on April 15, 2023, based on an Intelligence Report highlighting the failure of officers in arresting smuggling. However, officers are of the view that Customs has little to no authority and yet they are being held responsible for controlling smuggling.
On the other hand, the police, border agencies, and district administration have the authority and they are protecting the smuggling, yet there are no reports against them. Customs officers feel that they are being made the scapegoat in this situation. Meanwhile, Baluchistan High Court stayed Customs from auctioning the seized smuggled goods.
The rampant smuggling of diesel and other commodities in Baluchistan is a serious concern that needs to be addressed by the authorities. The failure to control smuggling not only results in significant revenue losses but also fuels illegal activities and destabilizes the law and order situation in the region. The relevant authorities need to work together to develop a comprehensive strategy to curb smuggling and protect the economic and social interests of the region.
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