KARACHI: There has been no respite in smuggling into the country, and smuggling of edible commodities out of the country under the garb of Afghan Transit Trade, because Customs is helpless due to adverse rules and regulations.

In a letter to Member Customs Mukarram Jah Ansari December last year, Directorate General of Transit Trade made certain recommendations in the rules to check smuggling under Afghan Transit Trade including restoration of stamping of goods “In Transit to Afghanistan” at Karachi Ports and Port Qasim.

The transit goods were used to be stamped. However in October 2020, PTI government discontinued stamping of goods “In Transit to Afghanistan” at Karachi Ports and Port Qasim. Government was pressurized by a large number of parliamentarians from KPK and Baluchistan to suspend the stamping.

An official alleged several parliamentarians and certain other security officials patronize or/and involved in the smuggling, particularly in KPK and Baluchistan. Such elements have always been an impediment in implementation of rules/policy discouraging smuggling. The likes of Mohsin Dawar were quite vocal against checks on Afghan transit trade, which has been exploited by smugglers to bring illegal goods into Pakistan.

An official said discontinuation of stamping transit trade goods is not a good decision and it would result in pilferage of transit trade goods and smuggling from the neighboring country.

The official said there were many cases in which goods pilfered and replaced during transit were detected and seized due to the stamps “In Transit to Afghanistan”.

It may be mentioned here most of the smuggled goods come from Afghanistan, which are actually transported from Karachi Port and Port Qasim to Afghanistan under transit trade. The condition of stamps was made mandatory to discourage smuggling and pilferage of transit goods.

The official said after the condition of stamp was imposed, there had been a considerable decline on smuggling.

This illegal trade has resulted in significant losses for Pakistan’s economy, as the country’s legitimate businesses suffer due to the unfair competition from smugglers.

The smuggled goods range from arms and ammunition to luxury items, such as electronics and vehicles. The smugglers use fake Afghan documents to obtain permits for the transportation of goods, which makes it difficult for authorities to identify the illegal activities.

In order to better assess the transit goods, Directorate General of Transit Trade also proposed that a provision be made in the Rules that at least 10% of GDs be marked via Resource Management System RMS) for manual assessment by Appraising Officer.

Presently, the only option available with Customs to verify the declaration of goods in GDs is 20% scanning of transit cargo. Directorate General proposed that in addition to the existing scanning requirement, 5% RMS based examination may be considered for better Customs Control.

An official said government need to take stringent measures to ensure that the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement is not misused for illegal activities. The authorities must be vigilant and use modern technology to track the movement of goods, which is only possible through an enabling framework.