The Transnational Alliance to Combat illicit Trade (TRACIT), a New York based Global think tank dedicated to mitigating economic and social damages of illicit trade has recently published a report: ‘Illicit Trade In Pakistan: The Twin Task of Combating Illicit Trade And Boosting Economic Growth’.

The think tank quotes frequently from the two opinion pieces authored by Mr. AmanUllah Tareen, Additional Collector Customs, titled Challenges In Customs Enforcement and Prevention of Smuggling Act, 1977 published on eve of International Customs Day, 26th January, 2023. TRACIT while referencing writings of Mr. AmanUllah Tareen has also acknowledged which had published the aforesaid articles. Acknowledgement of by premier research international think tank focused on highlighting the menace of illicit trade globally is a source of pride for the which is dedicated to publishing news on illicit trade, smuggling etc. pertaining to Pakistan.    

This report sheds light on the resource constraints faced by Pakistan Customs and proposes solutions to address illicit trade.

Resource Constraints Faced by Pakistan Customs

Personnel Shortage: Particularly in Baluchistan, Pakistan Customs lacks sufficient personnel to effectively secure the borders with Iran and Afghanistan. With fewer than one thousand Customs officers deployed in the region, including only 400 personnel for anti-smuggling operations, monitoring the 1600 km-long border becomes challenging.

Logistical Challenges: Pakistan Customs faces significant logistical hurdles. Operational vehicles are scarce, many of which are in poor condition. This limitation hampers their ability to pursue smugglers or conduct swift anti-smuggling operations. New operational vehicles are needed to monitor borders effectively.

Lack of Aerial Surveillance: The agency lacks aerial vehicles or helicopters for surveillance purposes. This deficiency impacts their ability to combat smuggling activities along major routes leading to cities.

Outdated Weapons: Customs officers are ill-equipped to confront armed smugglers due to outdated weapons.

Retaliation Risk: Customs officers face retaliation from smugglers while performing their duties. The lack of resources to establish a formal network of informers within Customs makes it difficult to collect information for anti-smuggling activities.

Proposed Solutions

Legal Framework Enhancement: TRACIT suggests amending the Prevention of Smuggling Act of 1977. Specifically:

Broadening the Definition: Modify the definition of “smuggling” to apply to all forms of smuggling, whether goods are being taken out of or brought into Pakistan.

Preventive Detention Powers: Extend these powers to lower law enforcement ranks (e.g., collector, director of customs intelligence) to enhance effectiveness and deter smugglers.

Increased Implementation: Customs authorities should invoke the Prevention of Smuggling Act more frequently, considering the overlap between merchandise seizure and criminal proceeds.

Strengthening Existing Provisions: Both the Customs Act, 1969, and the Prevention of Smuggling Act, 1977 need suitable amendments to strengthen anti-smuggling provisions and broaden their scope., dedicated to reporting on illicit trade and smuggling in Pakistan, takes pride in being acknowledged by TRACIT. Strengthening the regulatory framework is crucial to combat illicit trade effectively and boost economic growth.