Peshawar: Pakistan Customs has issued new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in response to the escalating smuggling activities across the country. The SOPs include a controversial decision to abandon anti-smuggling checkpoints during nighttime hours, a move that has raised concerns among customs officials.

Tragedy struck the Customs department when seven officials were ambushed and killed by unidentified assailants, suspected to be linked to smuggling syndicates. This incident has highlighted the dangers faced by those at the forefront of Pakistan’s fight against smuggling.

Under the tenure of the caretaker government, smuggling operations have seen a significant increase, with goods valued at tens of billions of rupees illegally entering the country. Baluchistan, in particular, has been a hotbed for such activities, with nine dumping sites in Mastung alone being raided and goods worth billions recovered.

The smuggled goods are reportedly transported through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and northern Punjab, including Islamabad, via Dera Ismail Khan (DI Khan). Karam Ilahi, the Collector of DI Khan, has been recognized for his stringent stance against smuggling, setting an example for others in his department.

Despite previous incidents where Customs personnel were targeted and killed by smugglers, the recent attacks resulting in the martyrdom of seven officials have led to a demoralizing decision. The Customs department has removed checkpoints, effectively granting smugglers a free pass, a move that has been met with criticism from within.

An anonymous official expressed frustration, stating that Customs authorities should seek the support of the army and paramilitary forces rather than capitulating to the smugglers’ threats. “We are basically told not to do our job,” the official lamented.

The official further emphasized that with the current transportation of smuggled goods in large quantities, there lies an opportunity to seize these goods and deal a significant blow to the smuggling networks.

It is noteworthy that the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Asim Munir, has taken a firm stance against smuggling. The involvement of politicians in these criminal activities has not gone unnoticed, with a prominent politician from the caretaker setup recently being denied any notable office due to these concerns.

The situation remains tense as Pakistan Customs grapples with the dual challenges of enforcing anti-smuggling measures and ensuring the safety of its personnel.