HONOURABLE PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN ON THE OCCASION OF INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMS DAY BEING CELEBRATED ON 26TH JANUARY, 2021
Pakistan, after a period of economic instability is finally entering an era of sustainable economic growth. This shift has been brought about through a major policy change of focusing rapid industrialization and export-led growth. CPEC and the projects accompanying it, have provided the country the opportunity for improving connectivity through its seaports and borders, for its regional trade partners. A well-connected Pakistan shall go a long way in making the country the most favorable economic corridor in the region. This opportunity to develop and sustain trade hubs and industrial zones along these routes, by creating a thriving economic environment, would attract further business and investment in the country and boost exports, thus, accelerating us forward on the path of sustainable economic growth.
World Customs Organization’s slogan for the year 2021, “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for sustainable supply chain” has come at the most opportune time for Pakistan as it reflects well the country’s plan of providing connectivity within the region and to the outside world. Pakistan Customs, enabled by its footprint across the country and mandated to secure the economic frontiers by facilitating legitimate trade and combating smuggling, is placed at a strategic position to lead this effort.
With the onset of COVID-19, the greatest challenge faced by the country was to maintain the supply chain through optimum utilization of resources for timely provision of goods especially the medical supplies. Pakistan Customs succeeded in ensuring seamless flow of trade in these difficult times, when the pandemic spread was at its peak, while adhering to the slogan of WCO.
I congratulate the officers and staff of Pakistan Customs for their contribution in making Pakistan dynamic and trade friendly country. I hope that Pakistan Customs is celebrating International Customs Day today, with the resolve to further improve the supply chains and international trades for greater economic good of the country. I wish them success in their endeavor.
FEDERAL MINISTER OF FINANCE AND REVENUE ON THE OCCASION OF INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMS DAY BEING CELEBRATED ON, 26th JANUARY, 2021
The foundation of the global trade structure rests on development of a credible and strong supply chain, which ensures rapid industrial productivity and marketing of goods in shortest span of time. Global pandemic (COVID-19) has badly disrupted all this putting world trade at an unprecedented risk. Under the prevalent milieu, World Customs Organization’s (WCO) slogan “Customs Bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for Sustainable Supply Chain” merits no under-estimation. The recently introduced strategic policy framework by the Government of Pakistan envisages trade promotion and export-led growth as its mainstream policy and places a major responsibility on Pakistan Customs administration to complement the targeted export-led growth amid the COVID and post-COVID environment. The WCO has, also, rightly highlighted the Enhanced and Effective Collaborations, Adoption of Advanced Technology and Restructuring of Supply Chain as the domains, which demand active involvement from Customs authorities:
In this regard, I am pleased to note that Pakistan Customs is actively working for development of Pakistan Single Window, a state-of-the-art project, which aims at bringing all border and other relevant departments together to ensure efficiency in time and cost of supply chain networks.
Restructuring of existing procedures and seamless process flow are inevitable to make the supply chain more resilient, under the circumstances. It is also worth mentioning that Pakistan Customs has been exceptional in adapting its clearance process during COVID-19 by making necessary adjustments in its automated Web Based One Customs (WeBOC) system. Pakistan Customs has invested in many new programs like Authorized Economic Operators, TIR Carnet and International Transshipment to re- organize the existing supply chain and make it more adaptive to boost trade and economic recovery. With the introduction of these programs, trade volume will enhance resulting in improved revenue collection.
In the end, I once again felicitate Pakistan Customs for their rigorous efforts to bolster economic recovery through collaboration with all the relevant stakeholders and leveraging advanced technologies resulting in revenue generation. I also hope that Pakistan Custom would keep up the good work they are doing and would play their role, in the economic uplift of the country, with similar zeal and vigor.
SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRIME MINISTER ON REVENUE ON OCCASION OF INTERNATIONAL CUSTOM DAY TO BE CELEBRATED ON 26th JANUARY, 2021
I extend my felicitations to the Customs fraternity on the International Customs Day 26th January, 2021 which being a signature event, brings together different parties and stakeholders that are responsible for societal protection and smooth conduction of legitimate economic activities. The slogan for this year’s International Customs Day is “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain”. However, the World Customs Organization (WCO) has dedicated this year to the untiring efforts of Customs to support people and businesses in the critical times of COVID-19, by strengthening the global supply chain and without halting the economic activities.
The role of Pakistan Customs is changing and is responsible for a wide range of duties that span across narcotics interdiction, protection and collection of government revenue, trade controls and facilitation, intellectual property rights protection, protection from environmental hazards as well as consumer protection. However, Customs is successfully mastering the dual role of a regulator and a facilitator for the business environment within the country and through International trade and by binding a close partnership with counterparts in the law enforcement domain and business sector.
Pakistan Customs is playing pivotal role in making the country an economic corridor. A vast variety of initiatives have been taken up to meet best international practices and to cope pace with the globalized modern approaches towards facilitation and unification of trade. Pakistan Single Window is the most important initiative under process by Customs, which provides one-stop electronic platform for lodging of trade documents, promoting cross-border customs co-operation and expediting trade declaration and customs clearance. Other ongoing projects like ITTMs, TIR carnet, International Transshipment will boost the country’s potential to compete in global first class trade by increasing efficiency and accountability. AEO Pilot Project has also been operational at Karachi to facilitate trade and reduce undue clearance processes. Meanwhile, to counter the illicit movement of goods across the country Customs has been made lead agency to combat smuggling and for that purpose Border Management Initiative and Counter Smuggling Portal has been established for improved border security and maintaining database to monitor and identify the smuggled goods and actors involved respectively. In order to ensure renewal of supply chains, Pakistan Customs is putting in best efforts to facilitate the regional/international trade. In this regard, Pakistan has considerably improved its rate of implementation of World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) from 34% in June, 2018 to 79% in November, 2020.
I firmly believe the above-stated measures shall play a consequential role in aiding our country in making an excellent comeback from of the pandemic. In the end, I once again congratulate Pakistan Customs on the occasion of International Customs Day and wish a very fruitful year ahead.
World Customs Organization International Customs Day 2021
Once again, the Customs community comes together, united in celebrating International Customs Day, which officially falls on 26 January of each year. This special day enables WCO Members, the WCO Secretariat and Customs’ worldwide partners to dedicate themselves to taking forward a particular theme. Thus, throughout 2021, under the slogan “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain,” the Customs community will be focusing on emerging from the global pandemic and support people and businesses by strengthening the global supply chain, reinforcing collaboration, harnessing technology and putting “people” at the centre of the transformation process.
Indeed, as Customs will be moving to reconstruction in the wake of COVID-19, Members will be invited to embrace digital transformation at the borders, paying particular attention to automation, the use of innovative technologies, and the adoption of collaborative approaches with all stakeholders along the supply chain.
Customs, being uniquely positioned and mandated at borders, can contribute to a sustainable supply chain in the following ways:
- Reinforcing collaboration to drive the Recovery process. The economic impact of the pandemic on companies has been colossal, with considerable disruption of global supply chains. The herculean task of reconstruction cannot be undertaken in isolation, and the expertise of all border agencies and stakeholders will be a decisive factor. Customs will be called upon to demonstrate its leadership during this process, at the national and international levels. The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that coordinated border management is possible, efficient, and can be further institutionalized at international and national levels. The sound implementation of the SAFE Framework of Standards, including the AEO standards and cooperation with other government agencies, appears to be a relevant focus in this context. Given the increase in ecommerce observed during the COVID-19 period, it would be timely for Members to implement the WCO E- Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce in order to address security and facilitation in the context of this emerging supply chain trend, in close collaboration with stakeholders.
- Embracing advanced technologies to enable Renewal rather than return to how things were before. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of major innovative and technological concepts which the WCO has been promoting for years. These include all-digital and paperless clearance methods, and the use of technology for implementing effective controls and facilitating, enhancing and accelerating processes. Irrespective of the pandemic, Customs administrations have been sensitized – through specialized forums and conferences – about the benefits that can be reaped from the integration of technologies based on the use of big data, telematics and the Cloud into Customs operations. Building on the lessons learned, Customs administrations should look at the way goods are cleared at borders from a fresh perspective. Non-intrusive inspection devices, blockchain, artificial intelligence, sensors and connected objects, and other technological advances offer tangible benefits in terms of collecting, combining, sharing and analysing data, and these benefits should be maximized.
- Putting “people” at the centre of change for a Resilient and sustainable supply chain. In order to address the vulnerability of Customs to systemic risks such as pandemics, Customs administrations will be called upon to build on the lessons learned and ensure that no one is left behind as we move towards a deeper transformation. To create greater resilience, “people” should be at the centre of the recovery model. Citizens around the globe have changed their daily lives drastically to adapt to the new reality. By the same token, Customs are called upon to rethink and adapt the way they operate, and enhance the preparedness of their staff through awareness raising and capacity building for the provision of a professional service. At the same time, resilience cannot be achieved without integrity, diversity and inclusion. A lack of integrity in Customs can distort trade and investment opportunities, undermine public trust in government administration and ultimately jeopardize the wellbeing of citizens, which in times of recovery could prove to be a recipe for failure.
The WCO will continue to provide guidance, help to share best practices and information, and deliver capacity building and technical assistance support to Members for the achievement of the above goals.
As in previous years, I am fully convinced that Customs administrations and the wider Customs community will rise to the occasion, fully committed to actively promoting their efforts and activities aimed at bolstering “Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain” that includes sharing relevant practices and activities with others at WCO meetings and in key WCO publications.
Wishing you all a happy International Customs Day!
SECRETARY, REVENUE DIVISION / CHAIRMAN, FBR ON THE OCCASION OF INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMS DAY TO BE CELEBRATED ON 26TH JANUARY, 2021
Bilateral and multilateral trade, in the 21st Century, have grown tremendously, posing both challenges as well as providing opportunities to Customs administrations throughout the world. To tap this potential, Pakistan Customs under the umbrella of Federal Board of Revenue has embraced information technology, modern equipment, trade frameworks and various trade facilitation measures as engines of growth and trade development.
- As it is looked ahead to 2021 from the perspective of Customs, the theme for this year’s International Customs Day is “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain” which envisions a professional, enabling service culture as a building block for modern Customs administrations. This theme is not only in line with the initiatives that have already been undertaken by the Government of Pakistan but is what FBR and Pakistan Customs constantly strives to be.
- It is because of the concrete initiatives taken by Pakistan Customs that FBR has been able to withstand the crippling effects of a global COVID-19 pandemic and our services remained operational even during the peak periods of lockdown observed across the country. The Director of World Economic Forum (WEF) Mr. Klaus Schwab has called the COVID-19 pandemic as the “Great Reset”. It is heartening to announce that Pakistan Customs, in the reconstruction process after the disruption that the pandemic had caused on global supply chains owing to the Great Reset, is fully geared to take up the challenge of playing a leadership role at both national and international levels by integration of major innovative and technological concepts into the Customs Operations.
- With the sole objective of ensuring a climate which encourages facilitation of legitimate trade & travel under Customs international commitments, various ambitious IT regimes are underway. To mention a few big ones, the Pakistan Single Window (PSW), Integrated Transit Trade Management System (ITTMS), Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) programme and the multimodal Transports Internationaux Routiers (TIR) regime are under various stages of development and implementation. Under the PSW initiative, 44 different organizations will be connected online, reducing cost of doing business, whereas the ITTMS envisages reduced processing times at border crossing points of Wagah, Torkham and Chaman. Under the WCO’s SAFE Framework of Standards, the Authorized Economic Operators programme aims at recognizing trusted importers and exporters and will reduce the cost of doing business substantially. With these initiatives, Pakistan Customs has joined the comity of vibrant customs administrations and is imparting benefit to stakeholders along the trade supply chain. The TIR regime will provide for a barrier free access to Pakistan’s economy and market so that its competitive trade goods will be able to flow with the minimum transport costs.
5. Pakistan Customs, under Federal Board of Revenue, renews its commitment towards continuous improvements towards bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain.
MEMBER FBR (CUSTOMS-OPERATIONS)
Today, I stand proud to be the head of Pakistan Customs Administration on this auspicious International Customs Day.
As the head of the critically important organization, I am cognizant of the heavy responsibility that the country in particular and international community in general, has laid in the office which I occupy to come up to the challenges facing us.
I am very pleased to inform that Pakistan Customs has been up to the task in performing its traditional role of collecting revenue whereby 44% of total tax revenue has been contributed by Customs.
Equally if not more has been our administrative success in combating smuggling and illicit trade: We have already scaled historic peak of more than 30 billion of seizures of contraband and illicit goods.
Partnering with the border agencies and Provincial Governments, we have been able to clean our markets from smuggled goods thereby spurring industrial growth especially textile, tyres and other industrial goods.
We are proud to have partnered with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority in introducing the DIRBS system whereby the smuggling of mobile phones has been eliminated: Pakistan has now entered into mobile manufacturing catering to a small portion of local demand and very soon we will be witnessing export of mobile phones from Pakistan.
Though much has been achieved, it is high time now that Pakistan Customs changes its direction from revenue generation agency to a pro-growth and pro-development organization supporting Pakistani industry and export through great border controls, through Trade Facilitation procedures and introduction of ICT.
I am confident that my organization will escalate its achievements even more and embrace this slogan “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain” as the guiding principle for the year.
I wish my administration a great International Customs Day.
MEMBER (CUSTOMS-POLICY), FEDERAL BOARD OF REVENUE, ISLAMABAD ON OCCASION OF INTERNATIONAL CUSTOM DAY TO BE CELEBRATED ON 26th JANUARY, 2021
I extend my heartfelt felicitations to the Customs fraternity on the International Customs Day being celebrated on 26th January, 2021. The slogan for this year’s International Customs Day is “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain”. In wake of COVID-19, the World Customs Organization (WCO) has dedicated this year to the united efforts of Customs across the world to support people and businesses by strengthening the global supply chain. Thus, throughout 2021, Pakistan Customs will be focusing on emerging from the global pandemic and support people and businesses by strengthening the global supply chain, reinforcing collaboration, harnessing technology and putting “people” at the center of the transformation process. It will be moving to reconstruction in the wake of COVID-19 by embracing digital transformation by further paying particular attention to automation, the use of innovative technologies, and the adoption of collaborative approaches with all stakeholders along the supply chain.
The economic impact of COVID-19 on the world has been colossal with considerable disruption of global supply chains. Pakistan Customs played its effective role in trade recovery during pandemic period by ensuring 24/7 clearance of Cargo at Ports/Airports and land borders stations, while ensuring expeditious clearance of medicines, food items, and equipment pertaining to treatment of Corona Virus. Dedicated email and helpline was established for single contact facility to accommodate all trade related queries/grievances for mitigation by the Customs authorities. In order to ensure smooth flow of trade, active communication and cooperation was established with Customs-to-Customs, Customs-to-Business and Customs-to-other government agencies.
Pakistan Customs is cognizant of the fact that in the post COVID scenario, world has to embrace advanced technologies including all-digital and paperless clearance methods, and the use of technology for implementing effective controls and facilitating, enhancing and accelerating processes. Building on the lessons learned, Pakistan Customs has taken a fresh perspective on how goods are being cleared. After ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), it has chalked out a comprehensive plan for its implementation. Consistent with the ‘SAFE Framework’ developed by the WCO, the Pakistan Customs is working on developing a plan for implementation of an AEO Program connecting all the stakeholders in international cargo supply chain ranging from importers, exports, clearing agents, port operators to transporters and freight forwarders across borders. To support Pakistan’s effort to balance trade facilitation and security, the WCO has provided assistance on Risk Management including setting up National Targeting Center, and ICT and AEO. Moreover, implementation of other Categories of commitments under TFA such as Advance Rulings, Average Release Times studies, Trade related Information through Internet, Expedited Shipments, Border Agency Cooperation etc are all aimed to increase trade facilitation and improve index of ease of doing business in Pakistan. Pakistan Customs has also embarked upon a project to establish state-of-the-art border complexes at its land borders with Afghanistan and India under the Integrated Transit Trade Management System (ITTMS).
National Single Window is a platform that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents using a single-entry point to fulfill all import, export and transit related regulatory requirements; it is a significant step towards digital transformation and trade facilitation of Pakistan’s cross border trade. Through World Bank’s sponsored project, Pakistan Raises Revenue, Automated Entry Exit Control System (AEES) will be introduced for improved cargo control and surveillance at crossing points.
Based upon the lessons learnt from pandemic challenge, Pakistan Customs has adopted a new way of preparedness of their staff through awareness raising and capacity building for the provision of a professional service delivery through integrity. Pakistan Customs resolves that integrity in its operations will take a center stage aimed at actively promoting its efforts and activities for bolstering “Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain”.
Wishing you all a happy International Customs Day!
Chief Collector (Enforcement-South), Karachi
On the International Customs Day 2021, I would like to felicitate the entire Customs’ fraternity on behalf of Pakistan Customs. This year, the World Customs Organization (WCO) is celebrating this day under the theme “Customs, bolstering Recovery, Renewal, and Resilience for a Sustainable Supply Chain” .
In today’s world, ensuring security and sustainability of international supply chains has become one of the top most priorities of all states especially in the wake of disruptions caused in supply chains due to coronavirus pandemic. The prime responsibility for this task falls on the shoulders of Customs administrations around the world. As the last year witnessed severe threats of disruption to international supply chains in Pakistan, Pakistan Customs had an uphill task on its plate. It is heartening to note that Pakistan Customs not only achieved its revenue targets assigned by the Federal Government despite a fall in imports, our sea ports, airports, dry ports and land border stations were kept up and running in a smooth manner with spirit of trade facilitation, integrity and devotion that is the hallmark of Pakistan Customs. Pakistan Customs has not only effectively handled the crises in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic; it has also contributed a great deal in ensuring quick economic recovery and uninterrupted supply chains for trade and industry. I wish Pakistan Customs best of luck in its future endeavors.
Collector MCC E&C, Karachi
World Customs Organization has dedicated the International Customs Day for year 2021 to the theme “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a Sustainable Supply Chain”. The slogan signifies the unique role of Customs Administrations around the world in getting the world economy on the road to sustained and resilient recovery. During the current pandemic, not only Pakistan but the entire world experienced severe shocks to the economy with special ramifications for the supply chain of essential services. I am glad to observe that Pakistan kept its key ports open and Pakistan Customs worked 24 x 7 in order to keep the wheels of the economic engine up and running without compromising on the preventive measures for the coronavirus pandemic. I hope that 2021 brings a year of high spirits and look forward to working with a sense of devotion and spirit of duty.
At the outset of 2021, Pakistan has begun to come out of the coronavirus pandemic affects as one of the very few countries who have pulled off quite an appropriate response to the said pandemic. In this, Pakistan Customs’ role has been very important, as it ensured an uninterrupted flow of international supply chain while ensuring strict adherence to preventive measures. We guaranteed unabated clearance of goods at seaports, airports, dry-ports and at land border stations throughout the year. Moreover, revenue targets assigned to Pakistan Customs by the Federal Government were also achieved despite decline in imports. Pakistan Customs contributed towards increase in exports through implementing Federal Government’s policy of trade facilitation. I hope the next year turns out to be a continued episode of improvisation in service to the nation and preservation of its indomitable spirit.
CHIEF COLLECTOR CUSTOMS (BALOCHISTAN)
Chief Collector Balochistan.
Customs is one of the leading national agencies of the country which ensures secure national borders, prospering businesses and increasing revenues.
This is done by strict and vigilant enforcement measures, implementation of laws and regulations protecting local industry, facilitating indigenous trade and expanding its domestic reach by erstwhile deletion programs etc.
This year’s theme perfectly fits the role of customs. The theme is “Customs Bolstering Recovery Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain”
It is imperative to stress on our role as a facilitator more than a revenue generator. We need to go extra distance in order to adapt to the recent testing times.
Greater the cooperation and understanding between all stakeholders, greater will be the recovery process back from global pandemic.
Implementation of WCO e-frame work standards on e-Commerce can greatly address security concerns and facilitate trade amongst comity of nations.
The advanced technologies need to be adapted for Renewal rather than adopting previous outdated procedures.
Recent Pandemic has drastically changed the ways of doing business in more smarter ways as were being promoted by the World Customs Organization (WCO) for years.
Non intrusive examinations reliance on advanced technologies are the future of Customs clearance.
The Customs has to rethink and adapt to new techniques in changing times. The capacity building of the staff is to be increased with changing trends in world trade. It is reiterated here that resilience can’t be achieved without integrity diversity and inclusion. Customs has to rise to meet WCO slogan 2021.
World Customs Day, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic dominated the economy of the world in the year 2020. It took lives of millions of people around the globe and changed the lifestyles of billions into a new normal. The pandemic not only posed unprecedented challenge to public health and safety but also to the international supply chain.
Customs Administrations around the world celebrate the World Customs Day under the auspices of World Customs Organization (WCO) each year on 26th January. This year the WCO decided to celebrate a theme interlinked with the past chain of events related to the world economy and the resolve of Customs to not only overcome the challenges but to make the Administrations resilient to any further shocks through promotion of sustainability. This year the Administrations will celebrate the World Customs Day under the slogan “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain”.
Pakistan Customs during the year 2020, took several measures to facilitate the cross-border movement of relief goods and essential supplies (like coronavirus detection kits, surgical masks, multi-mode ventilators with air compressors, face shields, and other medical supplies). Exemption of custom duty, regulatory duty and additional custom duty on medical and testing equipment was also provided on the goods related to health and safety of the citizens of Pakistan. In order to mitigate the impact of supply chain relationship to global shock, Pakistan Customs assured 24/7 clearance of cargo at ports, airports and all land border stations for protecting the social and economic interest of people. Moreover, a large number of anti-smuggling operations were carried out during the pandemic.
It is important to highlight here the heroic efforts of courageous and inspiring officers during these trying times. We salute our martyrs and frontline workers including Shaheed Zahid Khokhar on this Day as they make us proud during these trying times.
I expect Pakistan Customs to continue to strive for greater professionalism in line with international best practices, to enable them to take intelligent enforcement decisions on the basis of information sharing, targeted data analysis and greater engagement with stakeholders to ensure sustainability of global supply chain.
THE DIRECTOR GENERAL, TRANSIT TRADE, KARACHI
January 26th is the day on which Customs International Day is commemorated to recognize the importance of customs cooperation around the world. Whereas this day is dedicated to acknowledge the contribution of customs, on this occasion, the customs administrations across the world, reaffirm their commitment to facilitate legitimate trade and secure revenue, thereby bringing about global prosperity.
Keeping itself abreast with international best practices, Pakistan Customs is proud of its contribution and potential in securing supply chain and borders thus entailing global prosperity. Pakistan Customs is now a frontrunner in automation and digitalization with its Web Based One Customs (WeBOC) software. In addition very soon Pakistan Customs is going to provide automation platforms like Pre-arrival clearance based on Risk Management System, Pakistan Single Window (PSW) and e-TIR.
WCO has dedicated this day to the united efforts of Customs to emerge from the Corona Virus crisis. The Directorate General of Transit Trade, which facilitates the transit trade to land locked Afghanistan, has been effectively instrumental in ensuring smooth transit trade flow to Afghanistan during the corona virus crises.
Pakistan through its deep sea ports is serving as a transit corridor to its land locked neighboring country like Afghanistan as well as Central Asian Republics across Afghanistan. With its regional offices located at Karachi, Peshawar/Torkham, Quetta/Chaman, Lahore/Wagha, and Gawadar, Directorate General of Transit Trade, with its expanding role and function is promoting transit and bilateral trade in the region with due emphasis on greater ease and reduced cost of business. Pakistan Customs can take pride in its contribution for serving the community and country’s trade partners to promote prosperity and a sustainable future. On this day Pakistan Customs also pays its tribute to its officers and ranks working on ground often in a difficult and challenging environment. This day also reminds us about the service and sacrifice of those officers and ranks of Customs who shed their valuable lives in the line of duty.
Director General Customs Valuation, Karachi
I would like to felicitate the Customs community around the world on the International Customs Day 2021.World Customs Organization has chosen the slogan “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal, and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain” for celebrating ICD 2021. The theme for this year provides an insight into the deep connection between the role played by Customs and its impact on maintaining essential supply chains around the world. Besides that, Customs is also instrumental in facilitating trade and movement of goods across borders. Therefore, customs has a major role to play in the post-Covid world. The Covid-19 pandemic has put economies under the stress of recession due to the wide-spread lockdowns imposed around the world. It is heartening to see, however, that the Pakistani people and economy have shown extraordinary resilience against the negative impacts of the pandemic. Likewise, Pakistan Customs has also played a significant role in this national effort towards economic recovery. Pakistan Customs can take pride in the fact that during the first wave of Covid-19 and complete lockdowns in the country, Customs operations continued unhindered and extraordinary trade facilitation measures were taken to ensure minimum loss to businesses. This was possible only due to exceptional dedication to duty shown by the Customs personnel. Due to these remarkable efforts, Pakistan has been able to improve its ranking on the Trading Across Border Index from 142nd to 111th and has also improved its ranking from 136th to 108th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. Although Covid-19 control measures can cause major disruptions to global supply chains and transportation and customs clearance systems, I have no doubt that Pakistan Customs will continue to work dedicatedly in these difficult times; thereby guaranteeing supply capacity during the crisis and playing its pivotal role in control, facilitation and regulation of international trade. This will help in mitigating social and economic difficulties during and after pandemic and causing expeditious economic growth in the economy.
THE DIRECTOR GENERAL TRAINING & RESEARCH CUSTOMS, ICD 2021
Pakistan Customs celebrates its resilience and commitment on this year’s International Customs Day. The Customs fraternity around the world played its part to provide essential services while combating the global pandemic of Covid-19. A shift in work patterns was observed by Pakistan Customs to stay safe while making sure that provision of services is not compromised. It is these challenging times that make us realize the importance of bringing frequent reforms and the need for pursuance of continuous automation. The WCO’s theme for this year’s theme of “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain” paves way for a new era where automation shall be the heart of the change process. A collaborated effort to connect all stakeholders is emerging and underway in the form of National Single Window (NSW) which is being led by Pakistan Customs. With much enthusiasm and hope, Pakistan Customs continues to serve and combat the challenges faced in the wake of global pandemic of COVID-19 by keeping its people first and foremost.
International Customs Day 2021
Director General IPR Enforcement. Pakistan Customs
Together with the International Community, the Pakistan Customs is celebrating the International Customs Day on 26 January 2021. As this year’s theme suggests, the ever expanding role of Customs now includes recovery, renewal and resilience for a sustainable supply chain. We recognize this critical role of facilitating free flow of legitimate imports and keeping a check on influx of counterfeit products to safeguard the supply chain.
Due to high tariff rates, especially on all luxury items, like perfumes and toiletries, the department has witnessed a sudden trend towards import of hazardous counterfeit products. A variety of counterfeit goods have been detected nationwide during 2020. Most of the counterfeit items including empty bottles, edibles, toiletries, perfumes, watches, insecticides, auto part labels and makeup products. Some of these fast moving consumer goods pose a serious threat to health and safety of consumers. A major achievement was the seizure of thousands of counterfeit watches, whose originals have an approximate market value of US $ 23 million. Due to these landmark cases a special letter and Certificate of Appreciation from the President of the Swiss Watch Federation was sent to Customs IPR.
The onslaught of Covid 19, disrupted the entire supply chain, and posed new threats, bringing life to a complete halt, destabilizing the biggest economies, thus the need of the hour is damage control. This calls for a totally new approach and even stronger zest, zeal and passion to revive.
The Directorate General of IPRE has striven hard to fulfill the vision and mission of World Intellectual Rights Organization (WIPO); by implementing key provisions of the Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan (IPO-Pakistan) Act of 2012 and making huge seizures of counterfeit products. It was because of these efforts that the Office of the US Trade Representative moved Pakistan from the Priority Watch List to the Watch List in 2017.
Quite lately a Joint Customs Operation (JCO) “HYGIEA” was organized by the European Anti Fraud Office (OLAF) in association with the administration of Asia Europe meeting (ASEM). The JCO focused on interdiction of counterfeit Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs). FBR nominated the Directorate General of IPR (Enforcement), Islamabad to serve as national contact point for this operation. A final report on JCO HYGIEA formulated by OLAF revealed that performance of Pakistan Customs was at the top out of 38 participating countries.This outstanding performance of IPR (Enforcement) was acknowledged and highly appreciated by the OLAF, EUROPOL, ASEM and all participating member states of the JCO HYGIEA bringing a good name for FBR and Pakistan Customs.
We are hopeful that Pakistan Customs will stand out in IPR Enforcement at borders and continue to curb the import of counterfeit goods. The basis for this optimism is our performance, continuous engagement with national and foreign stakeholders, and dedication to the cause of ensuring health and safety for the consumers.
Director General, Reforms & Automation, Karachi
This year the International Customs Day on 267.01.2021 is dedicated to the contribution of Customs towards bolstering recovery, renewal and resilience for a sustainable supply chain. This year, the ICD comes at a challenging time, where the world is combatting the second wave of a deadly covid-19 pandemic. This slogan enhances the responsibility of customs as a global fraternity during these testing times when the whole world activities came to a standstill.
Customs being an essential service has successfully ensured service delivery during the covid-19 pandemic through online collection of leviable duties, paperless clearances, promoting and facilitating legitimate imports and exports and ensuring uninterrupted cross-border movement of goods while safeguarding the safety and health of its officers, officials and all the stake holders.
This year’s slogan is a welcome recognition of Customs’ contribution towards maintenance of a sustainable supply chain during covid-19 pandemic performing the task of protecting the economic borders of the country, for facilitation of legitimate trade and safeguarding the economic interests of its industrialists, investors, the common man and all stake holders.
The relentless efforts by the Directorate General of Reforms and Automation, Karachi in simplifying and automating customs processing in WeBOC has contributed a great deal in improving Pakistan’s rankings in Trading Across Borders Index from 142nd to 111th and similarly in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index from 136th to 108th. We begin 2021 with a resolve to further improve Customs’ business processes through automation while ensuring transparency and simplification.
Director General, Input Output Coefficient Organization (IOCO)
The occasion of International Customs Day is celebrated all over the world by the Customs fraternity on 26th January. I extend my warm felicitations to all officers and officials of Pakistan Customs on this special day.
The World Customs Organization has chosen the theme of “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain” for this year aiming at dedicated and united efforts of Customs to emerge from the coronavirus crisis.
I am pleased to note that this year finds Pakistan Customs better prepared than ever to face the challenges amid a global pandemic. The effective use of Information and Communication Technology enabled Pakistan Customs to support people and businesses in these difficult times. In order to strengthen the global supply chain, the officers and officials of Pakistan Customs worked diligently to reinforce collaboration among people, businesses, and other government authorities. Part of the efforts for facilitating global trade included rolling out the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) program.
In the end, I hope that the department will continue its resolve towards achieving a sustainable society and expect them to strive further for aligning themselves with the International best practices.
MCC Appraisement and Facilitation Peshawar
I extend my warm felicitations to officials of the Pakistan Customs. The World Customs organization is celebrating its 69th anniversary
I extend my warm felicitations to officials of the Pakistan Customs. The World Customs organization is celebrating its 69th anniversary this year and we are proud that Pakistan Custom is playing a key role in development of this progressive country through efficient targeted controls and the facilitation of lawful trade. The World Customs Organization (WCO), has announced that 2021 will be devoted to the united efforts of the global Customs community to take on a leadership role, use innovative technologies, and collaborate with its stakeholders in bracing for the future, with the slogan “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain.”
In the beginning of year 2020 Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 became a pandemic and escalated throughout the world, due to which our beloved country Pakistan is facing serious challenges. The COVID-19 cases rampantly increased in Pakistan and the Government closely monitored the situation. Multiple provinces opted to go into a state of lockdown including the City of Karachi, this crucial decision aimed to safeguard the best interest of people of Pakistan by curtailing further spread of the virus.
During the reconstruction process after the disruption the pandemic had caused on the global supply chains, Customs will be called upon to play a leadership role, at national and international levels. The COVID-19 crisis has proven that coordinated border management is possible, efficient, and can be further institutionalized at international and national levels.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also shown the importance of the integration of major innovative and technological concepts into Customs operations. These include all-digital and paperless clearance methods, and the use of technology for implementing effective controls and facilitating, enhancing and accelerating the processes. Inspections can be facilitated by using non-intrusive devices. Other technological advances such as block chain or artificial intelligence can also offer tangible benefits in terms of collecting, combining, sharing and analyzing data, and these benefits should be maximized.
In order to address the vulnerability of Customs to systemic risks such as pandemics, Customs administrations will be called upon to build on the lessons learned. To create greater resilience, “people” should be at the centre of the recovery model. Customs will have to rethink the way they operate, and enhance the preparedness of their staff through awareness raising and capacity building for the provision of a professional service, with Integrity remaining high on their agenda.
I feel proud to state that in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we as Custom Agents are the bridge between the industry, trade and customs and we are responsibly working day and night to facilitate the trade and to support the country’s economy by making on time customs clearance of consignments.
This is a great pleasure that Al-Mighty Allah give us this opportunity to represent the Karachi Customs Agents Association which is one of the largest and most proactive Association in Pakistan having more than 3000 members who are playing a vital role for the collection of budget targets fixed by Federal Government for FBR time to time. I on behalf of Managing Committee of Karachi Customs Agents Association pay our gratitude and well wishes to Pakistan Custom & World Custom Organization on World Customs Day.
Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA) wishes the Customs community worldwide a cheerful International Customs Day
International Customs Day, a day celebrated worldwide by the Custom Community to commemorate the first official conference held on 26th January, 1953 of the Customs Co-operation Council, officially known as the World Customs Organization. This day is celebrated worldwide to honor the valuable role played by Customs Administrations throughout the world in the protection of National borders from contraband as well as facilitation of legitimate trade. Each year, the Customs Community sets a theme to gather information and re-affirm World Customs Organization’s mission of enhancing effectiveness and efficiency.The information gathered is used to provide people with knowledge of business safety and security so as to enable them to work towards a better future.
To mark the significance of the challenges faced by the Custom Community due to the Pandemic, the World Customs Organization has dedicated the theme of 2021 as “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain”. The said theme highlights the united efforts of the Custom Community in supporting people and businesses in these difficult times by strengthening the global supply chain, reinforcing collaboration and harnessing technology.
During this pandemic, Covid-19 Customs demonstrated the relevance and critical role that it can play in facilitating trade and travel, simplifying, standardizing and harmonizing border procedures, and securing the borders. It is indeed proudly that I say that Pakistan Customs in this time of need ensured continuous operation of the supply chain guaranteeing that all goods including but not limited to food items, medicines, etc. cross borders without any delay. At a time when all departments of the country were not fully operational and the country was fighting its battle with the pandemic, Pakistan Customs fulfilled its role well by ensuring smooth delivery of goods till its end consumer, facilitation of trade and strengthening the global supply chain.
It is indeed encouraging that Pakistan Customs with the help of State Bank of Pakistan has already made significant headway towards digital transformation by ensuring that payment of Custom duties and taxes of any amountis also be acceptable through e-payment.With the launch of this system of e-payment across Pakistan, not only cost and time shall be saved but it shall also ensure seamless movement of goods across borders.
Since Custom Administrations around the world interact with global supply chains therefore, the best practices need to be adopted to ensure smooth national and international transactions. The pandemic has further reminded us that the path of modernization and trade facilitation is necessary to ensure a safe business environment. In today’s world, the international trade scenario has changed drastically, demanding not only dialogue between international jurisdictions but also sustainable partnerships with the business community.We all appreciate that Customs Administrators play a vital role in smooth flow of trade fighting on the front line to ensure trade is safeguarded against all economic terrorism.
The Karachi Customs Agents Association is especially grateful to Pakistan Customs for ensuring to fulfill its role even in these difficult times. I once again wish to convey my best wishes to the Pakistan Customs on the International Customs Day.
MILESTONE ACHIEVEMENT FOR DP WORLD KARACHI (QICT) AND PORT QASIM AUTHORITY
DP World Karachi (QICT) is pleased to announce that with the addition of 2 New Super Post Panamax Twin Lift QCs to its existing fleet of 3 Super Post Panamax Quay Cranes, we have created the capability of handling 4 container vessels at the same time starting on 14th December 2020. This is a milestone achievement not only for DP World Karachi and the Port Qasim Authority, but also for the entire shipping industry of Pakistan and more importantly for Pakistani Exporters.
The capabilities of the Port Qasim Authority Marine Operations Department was thoroughly showcased as they very efficiently managed to berth 4 vessels side by side at our terminals 1 & 2 occupying our entire berths. We worked independently without any switching of cranes. The inclusion of these 2 brand new Super Post Panamax Twin Lift cranes has resulted in a very fast turnaround of vessels thereby increasing our capacity to handle more cargo. This is a clear testament to the fact that alignment in core values and shared vision are at the core of a winning partnership in case of DP World and Port Qasim Authority.
Since its inception in 1997,DP World Karachi (QICT) has constantly invested in upgrading its terminal infrastructure in terms of procuring the latest and state –of-the-art vessel and yard handling equipment, in order to better serve the import and export trade of Pakistan and to constantly enhance its capabilities and improve efficiencies. We are the only terminal in Pakistan whose services have gone beyond the gates in terms of having integrated value added services thru IC3 for Pakistani exports to US, Container Freight stations and a 35 acre truck holding area in Port Qasim, An off dock terminal in Karachi namely NLCCT for catering Karachi local cargo and for up-country cargo through very efficient handling by train destined for our ICD in Lahore. All these assets have-e-solutions like online payments, Electronic Delivery Order, Que Management System, Mobile Android Application etc.
The core philosophy behind DP World Karachi’s success is a deep caring for its customers, by constantly exploring avenues for ease of doing business and implementing best practices in order to serve Pakistan’s trade in the most effective and efficient manner, contributing to the betterment and faster growth of the economy.
Our aim is to be the true trade enabler for the entire business community of Pakistan.
Customs Bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a Sustainable Supply Chain
The COVID-19 pandemic dominated the economy of the world in the year 2020. It took the lives of millions of people around the globe and changed the lifestyles of billions into a new normal.
Complete shutdown of every aspect of life was seen as the only solution to contain the spread of this previously unknown virus. The pandemic not only posed unprecedented challenge to public health and safety but also to the international supply chain.
Furthermore, international trade saw an unparalleled decline around the globe. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted supply chains worldwide and revealed vulnerabilities on a scale never before experienced.
From shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) to delays in obtaining parts and materials, we saw firsthand the fragility of global trade and supply chain.
Around 190 Customs Administrations celebrate the World Customs Day under the leadership of World Customs Organization (WCO) each year on 26th January.
This year the WCO has decided to celebrate a theme well interlinked with the past chain of events related to the world economy and the resolve of Customs to not only overcome the challenges but to make the Customs Administrations resilient to any further shocks through promotion of resilience and sustainability.
Around the globe, the Administrations will celebrate World Customs Day under the slogan “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain”.
This year’s WCO theme mainly emphasizes on digitization of supply chain processes, data sharing across the entire supply chain, strengthening & collaboration of Customs Administrations with international communities so that the economies around the world are capable of weathering future storms.
Throughout 2021, the custom community will be focusing on contribution towards restructuring of the global supply chain and strengthening operational resilience. By making the supply chain more resilient, we will be better positioned to recover from the current pandemic and be ready to immediately respond to future disasters.
Since the coronavirus crisis has revealed fragility of the supply chain, it has led to the development of themes focused at emerging from this contagious crisis by strengthening the global supply chain.
While there is definitely much to be achieved on the trade facilitation front, I am pleased, to share that during the year 2020, Customs Administrations were far more prepared than many other Governmental Organizations to cope with the pandemic due to automation and use of information and communication technology (ICT).
The use of advanced software and Artificial Intelligence, by many countries for clearance of goods, helped in reduction of face to face contact and paper documentation. Many countries, for example, use the UNCAD Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) to electronically submit and exchange data/documentation, and computerized procedures to expedite the clearance of imports, exports, transits and other trade transactions, thereby reducing to a great extent the need for face-to-face interaction.
Back home, Pakistan Customs has achieved a reasonably effective level of automation in the form of WeBOC-Glo, a web-based computerized clearance system, providing end to end automated customs clearance of import and export of goods, thereby reducing customs processing time (under 04 hours) while maintaining transparency and integrity.
WeBoc allows all routine custom processes to be performed online by customs without involvement of trader or agent along with computerized loading and gate out events. WeBOC has reduced the cost of doing business enabling increase in Customs Efficiency and efficient deployment of resources.
Supply chain visibility initiatives will allow all the stakeholders in the supply chain to share data while ensuring privacy and security. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies and WCO proposes to use TradeTech (shifting from analogue to digital process & to achieve greater connectivity and collaboration in trade process).
Since, COVID-19 pandemic has come to question the very fabric of our global marketplace, in an unprecedented way, replacing arcane custom processes by adopting digital technologies, enhancing international supply chain security as well as transparency and working on trade facilitation agenda will help to achieve WCO to accomplish objectives at international level.
The WCO Customs Environmental Scan 2020 helps the Administrations understand the political, economic, social, technological and legal (PESTLE) developments as well as the impact that these developments could have on the way Customs operates.
Environmental Scan 2020 focused on the impacts of pandemic and the response of custom in dealing with it by providing countries the requisite tools and information so that the flow of goods and other trade related activities could be carried out without hindrance.
The environmental scan 2020 is important as it makes us aware of the global trends and gives food for thought for developing new policies and altering existing ones for good. During the year 2020 WCO helped the Administrations by providing guidance on sensitive issues related to international trade
WCO played a very crucial role in mitigating the deep impacts of the crisis by providing guidelines and valuable assistance to customs administrations around the world in time. The annual WCO PICARD Conference (23rd-26th Nov, 2020) was held virtually and was attended by a huge number of participants.
The conference was dominated by debate on COVID and response of Custom Administrations while dealing with the crisis. After three days of intense discussion, WCO concluded by guiding members to place more focus on digitization and utilization of WCO tools especially AEO (authorized economic operator) and single window for facilitating the trade.
Moreover, WCO has developed various prominent tools and instruments for enhancing supply chain security such as SAFE framework of standards including risk management using advanced electronic information and custom administrations around the world played a vital role in strengthening supply chain security by implementing best practices in custom operation and policies.
WCO HS Classification List for COVID-19 Medical Supplies accelerated the cross-border movement of goods by systematizing codes of commodity nomenclatures of foreign economic activity. The COVID-19 pandemic has reiterated the importance of both WCO Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC) and World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), including major concepts supported by these instruments: an all-digital clearance process and efficient risk management.
Pakistan Customs during the year 2020, acted resiliently in facilitating all stakeholders. Several measures were taken to facilitate the cross border movement of relief goods and essential supplies (like coronavirus detection kits, surgical masks, multi-mode ventilators with air compressors, face shields, and other medical supplies).
Exemption of custom duty, regulatory duty and additional custom duty on medical and testing equipment was also provided. Sales tax was also exempted on medical and testing equipment related to the health and safety of the citizens of Pakistan.
In order to mitigate the impact of supply chain relationship to global shock, Pakistan Customs assured 24/7 clearance of cargo at ports, airports and all land border stations for protecting the social and economic interest of people. Moreover, a large number of anti-smuggling operations were carried out during the pandemic.
It is important to highlight here the heroic efforts of courageous and inspiring officers during these trying times. Pakistan Customs lost many dedicated and meticulous officers/officials, while fighting the COVID and performing official duties.
Shaheed Zahid Khokhar did not have a pre-existing medical condition but was tested positive for COVID-19 and could not win the battle against this deadly virus. We salute our martyrs and frontline workers on the World Customs Day as they make us proud during these trying times.
We are far from being able to assess the actual implications of COVID-19, yet there seems to be consensus about the need for transformative measures. One thing, however, has become very clear; the continued importance of global trade and of initiatives supporting the smooth flow of goods across borders, especially essential goods to areas where they are most needed.
Pakistan Customs will build on its experience and closely coordinate with international as well as national trade communities. One thing is for sure, that the global crisis calls for global answers. Pakistan Customs will provide full support to WCO and other trade bodies in order to make the movement of passengers, goods and transport as smooth and swift as possible for solidarity and coordination are crucial, within and among countries; no one is safe unless all of us are safe.
In the end I would like to sincerely congratulate the officers and officials of Pakistan Customs on this auspicious occasion, for their dedicated role and services during these trying times.
I expect them to continue to strive for greater professionalism in line with international best practices, to enable them to take intelligent enforcement decisions on the basis of information sharing, targeted data analysis and greater engagement with stakeholders to ensure sustainability of the global supply chain.
Pakistan Becoming A Transit Trade Hub Through Digital Transformation
Ahmed Reza Khan,
Director General, Transit Trade, Karachi.
Pakistan is a country gifted with a prized geography and location. The country is located at the crossroads of Central and South East Asia, with China as its neighbor in the North East, India in the East, and Iran and Afghanistan in the west.
Pakistan has about 990 KM coastline harboring its deep sea ports at Karachi and Gwadar. Through Afghanistan and China, Pakistan has access to six Central Asia States whereas Afghanistan and the Central Asian States are landlocked.
Pakistan has the potential to develop and promote a transit economy by linking these land-locked countries with the Middle-East, Africa and Europe through its transit corridor and seaports.
Since 1990, Pakistan has been a part of multiple agreements; the most significant ones being South Asia Free Trade Agreement, Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA), Economic Coordination Organization (ECO), Transit Transport Framework Agreement (TTFA), Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA), Central Asian Regional Economic Corridor (CAREC) and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
By way of CPEC, Pakistan’s Gwadar Port opens a gateway to the Indian Ocean, providing Afghanistan and Central Asian States a wonderful opportunity for marine trade, thus, promoting regional connectivity, economic diversification and sustainable growth in the whole region.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1958 and Article V to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), under the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO), provide the freedom of transit for the land locked countries.
Since Pakistan is a member of the United Nations and a signatory of the World Trade Organization, fulfilling its international commitments, it is providing transit facility to Afghanistan through Afghan Transit Trade Agreement (ATTA) 1965 which was revised in 2010 under the name of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).
At present, the negotiations are underway to sign a new Transit Trade Agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan this year which will cater to the changed international trading environment and technological advancements.
In 2020, transit goods worth US$ 5403 million landing at Pakistan’s seaports were transported to Afghanistan. During this year, the lockdown resulting from Covid-19 calamity posed an unusual challenge before Pakistan Customs.
As a result of lockdown, thousands of containers got stuck at the sea port causing massive congestion at the port terminals. However, with effective strategy, the situation was brought to normal within two months.
Lowering of transaction cost and adding more predictability to the trading environment is the priority of the Government of Pakistan. In this regard, Pakistan Customs took special measures to simplify the procedures in transit flow so as to enhance the ease of doing business coupled with reduction in cost of doing business.
To facilitate the Transit Trade and to avoid congestion at Torkham border crossing point on 2nd December, 2020, FBR notified transit operations at Ghulam Khan Customs Station (GKK) which falls under North Waziristan Tribal District of Bannu division. GKK shares borders with Afghanistan and, after Chaman and Torkham, it is the most utilized trade route in Pakistan.
It also provides for the shortest route to Afghanistan for the traffic coming from Karachi. Customs staff has been deployed along with the configuration of Customs computerized System (WeBOC) at GKK for transit operations.
With the aim of developing a comprehensive infrastructure for smooth and effective flow of transit and bilateral trade, Pakistan Customs (in collaboration with Asian Development Bank) is pursuing the construction of state of the art border crossing terminals at Torkham, Chaman and Wagha.
The master plan for these three border terminals has already been approved under the Integrated Transit Trade Management System (ITTMS) regime, and development work has commenced under the supervision of a dedicated Project Management Unit (PMU) of FBR.
The multi-million dollar project envisages revamping the entire infrastructure including integrated administrative offices, widening of roads, new angled vehicle parking, installation of multi traffic lanes, erection of new pedestrian processing facilities along with new canopies and bridges. Installation of new equipment, such as cargo X-ray scanning, vehicular weighbridges, scanning and detection equipment for multi-entry and exit pedestrian lanes also form part of the project.
Moreover, new Information and Communication Technology (ICT) hardware and software will be installed as part of the transition to a Single Window System. The project aims at providing and implementing all internationally recognized best practices in transition and handling of cargo and passengers at the border terminals.
Pakistan acceded to the Customs Convention on the International Transport of Goods Under Cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention 1975) on 21st July 2015. By 2017, it had issued TIR rules and developed the TIR module for Full Container Load and Less than Container Load consignments under TIR operation by road. With the activation of TIR in Pakistan, so far 33 TIR operations have been successfully completed with the number rising from 8 in 2018 to 15 in 2020.
Pakistan Customs has also developed an Intermodal Module for Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade under TIR for the movement of goods brought through ships and transported through roads from Karachi Ports to the Customs Border Stations of Torkham and Chaman.
Pakistan is also one of the 15 countries who expressed their interest in establishing eTIR for full computerization of TIR procedures. The project has started with the help of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
In a nutshell, Pakistan is fast moving towards becoming a transit hub and important transit corridor by expanding its transit trade with other regional countries through bilateral trade agreements and under multilateral Convention of TIR with the up-gradation of its infrastructure.
Pakistan Single Window
World Bank Lead Customs Expert.
The sustainability of the international supply chain is in focus during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to keep international trade flows open for ensuring access to essential supplies including food and medicines while limiting pandemic’s negative impact on the economy.
As Pakistan Customs joins the Customs fraternity worldwide in celebrating the 38th International Customs Day on the theme of “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain”, it is cognizant of its pivotal role in the overall supply chain sustainability.
While providing 24/7 operational support at the ports, international airports and land border crossings, Pakistan Customs has been coming up with ICT based interventions that are designed to enhance workplace collaboration, minimize physical interactions between difference actors and reduce customs clearance costs & time for businesses.
The Pakistan Single Window program is one such initiative.
As a signatory to the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (2015), Pakistan has notified the establishment of a ‘National Single Window’ as a ‘Category C’ commitment with an implementation timeline of five years with effect from 22nd February 2017 and has initiated the development of the SW at an accelerated pace with Pakistan Customs as the designated ‘Lead Agency’.
The PSW will allow parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents with a single-entry point to fulfill all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements.
After putting in place a robust and inclusive implementation mechanism PSW is being indigenously developed by Pakistan Customs as a comprehensive electronic trade platform connecting Customs, trade regulators, traders, transporters, freight forwarders, logistic operators, port operators, shipping lines, airlines and road traffic, commercial banks and other stakeholders associated with international trade.
Under the PSW program, the processes related to cross border trade are not just automated but they are being simplified to reduce redundancy and are integrated to improve controls.
PSW is aiming at ensuring seamless exchange of information amongst all stakeholders connected to the system in a transparent manner and providing real time updates and access to information to all stakeholders including traders.
From February 2021 onwards, the PSW will start phased roll out of a suite of services.
This would include a unified registration system for economic operators, products and entities while integrating registration requirements of customs and other trade regulators into a single form through electronic portal. Similarly, it will enable filing of integrated declaration form eliminating the need for filling out multiple forms for various purposes.
It will provide electronic issuance of licenses, permits, certificates and other documents by trade regulators and Customs. The back-end processes related to these LPCOs are also being automated. The PSW will adopt an integrated risk management system and introduce a joint inspection mechanism.
It will offer electronic lab management and an integrated tariff management system at 12 digits. The PSW platform will be further complemented by a cross-border trade information portal, a re-modeled customs management system (WeBOC), a robust port community system covering the sea, air, and land port communities, e-commerce, and electronic payment system offering single payment experience for all services.
PSW will be integrated with other databases like NADRA, SECP, and FBR etc for electronic validations and verifications. It will have the capability for electronic data interchange with internal and external stakeholders.
The success of the PSW system is predicated on an efficient and effective governance and operating system that is self-sustaining, transparent and innovative and fosters a positive work environment and is responsive to the stakeholders’ needs.
Keeping this in view, FBR has created the PSW Company under Section 42 of the Companies Act, 2017 which will act as the operating entity for the PSW. A high-level Governing Council will provide management oversight and supervision to the PSW.
The Pakistan Single Window Bill  provides the legal framework for the PSW system and its governing and operating framework. It has been approved by the government and is expected to be enacted this year.
Even before its roll out, the PSW is resulting in major reform and transformation of trade related business processes. For instance, the State Bank of Pakistan has agreed to replace the consignment based Import and Export forms with electronic banker’s profiles enabling real time exchange of information between Customs and the banking system for foreign exchange regulation.
Trade regulators such as the Animal Quarantine Department, Department of Plant Protection, and the Federal Seed Certification & Registration Department, and Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan have approved major re-engineered processes and related documentary requirements for eliminating redundant information and eventual digitalization under the PSW system.
Pakistan Customs has also allowed major changes to allow pre-arrival declaration filing and processing without upfront payment of duty and taxes. All participating trade regulators will be developing risk rules to enable machine enabled risk profiling and mitigation of import/export transactions and consignments.
Under the PSW initiative, trade related regulatory laws, rules, and procedures are being reviewed for aligning them with international best practices.
While overhauling the entire regime of external trade management in Pakistan, the successful implementation of PSW program is aimed at reducing costs, time and complication for stakeholders while enhancing controls in cross border trade. It will substantially reduce paper based documentation and physical visits for undertaking imports, exports and transit trade.
The transparency and predictability with lesser room for interpretation would improve governance and reduce corruption.
The PSW initiative will have an immediate impact on the competitiveness of Pakistan. Reducing import transactions costs and time to align with regional averages of South Asia ($507 and 123 hours) could potentially save $350 million per year and approximately 140 hours per transaction while reducing export transactions costs and time to align with regional averages ($377 and 86 hours) could potentially save $80 million per year and approximately 45 hours per transaction.
These are all savings that will pass on directly to traders allowing them to invest more on their businesses and/or to recover from the ravaging effect of the pandemic.
However, perhaps more significantly, the successful implementation of the PSW will trigger and accelerate the digital transformation of Pakistan’s international trade sector to bring it at par with the more advanced economies in Asia and Europe and contribute to the strengthening, sustainability, resilience, and integration of Pakistan’s international supply chain to the global value chains.
Pakistan Customs and sustainability of supply chain
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused unprecedented upheaval in the world. Irreparable human loss coupled with unparalleled economic crisis has brought uncertainty and disruption in the supply chain throughout the world which has eroded millions of livelihoods.
Customs at the borders stood steadfast to embrace the challenge and never shied away to ensure that relief goods and medical supplies reached to the crisis hit affected people and relief organization, paramedics and hospital without any iota of interruption. Like other parts of the world, Pakistan Customs also lost a number of officers and staff and many were affected by COVID-19 while performing their duties at borders.
They never buckled down and remained steadfast not to allow disruption in the supply chain, ensured relief medical supplies reach victims and in warehouses to avert the crisis from turning from bad to worse. And we succeeded.
The passing year started with fear and uncertainty. World economies were dipped and recession was set in. International trade went down by 6% in the first quarter of 2020.
COVID 19 drove large international trade declines in 2020 and the services sector remained hardest hit by falling 15.4 % to levels seen in the 1990 and merchandise trade declined by 5.6% the biggest fall since 2009 (UNCTAD 20). In the few months of the pandemic, almost 10 million people in the US lost their jobs in the crisis which turned worse than the financial crisis in 2009. Manufacturing activity slowed down in most of the emerging economies and the equity markets endured decline.
All this adversely affected production, consumption, supply chain and international trade crossing borders. The crisis generated a number of trade restrictions and simultaneously triggered various trade facilitation measures. Pakistan Customs adopted the changes smoothly and enforced the measures diligently for sustainability of trade supply chain.
As the crisis broke, the World Customs Organization came forward and provided guidelines and issued SOPs on how Customs administrations all over the world deal with crises, particularly managing the clearance of goods at borders.
Through WCO web-site regular updates about the pandemic were provided and necessary guidelines about the use of instruments, tools, initiatives and databases were provided to handle the untoward situation in COVID-19. WCO issued COVID reference list for classification of medical supplies required in crisis in coordination with the WHO.
It facilitated Member countries including Pakistan to issue SROs for exemption for specific medical items which helped in making urgent clearance of medical supplies at borders.
In addition, the WCO invited the attention of Customs administrations to use important tools required in managing the crisis such as the 2011 Resolution of the Customs Cooperation Council on the Role of Customs in Natural Disaster Relief, Guidelines to Chapter 5 of Specific Annex J to Revised Kyoto Convention.
Pakistan Customs continued to work uninterruptedly amid the Corona crisis. The staff at cross border points continued to serve 24/7 ensuring the life saving supplies are reaching timely to the affected and hospitals are not short of medicines. Special provisions of prior release and the immediate clearance were applied at all major airports to release the related shipments immediately.
All relevant relief agencies and government organizations were helped out to handle urgent cargos. The Govt regulations to control COVID related supplies and export of face masks were enforced stringently. Customs staff went beyond the call of duty and raised themselves at the time of crisis when the nation needed them the most. They sacrificed their lives, risked their health and performed more than expectations.
The lesson learnt from the crisis is to harness cooperation among nations of the world, promote multilateralism, establish close working relations with cross border agencies, create partnerships with trade, leverage technology and establish permanent communication channels to manage pandemics effectively to maintain the sustainability of supply chain.
Gwadar Port & Pakistan Customs
Modern concept of development is that the economic interdependence among developed and under developed nations increases integration, trade promotion, and many related activities such as investment flow, transfer of technology, building of new economic infrastructure, new job opportunities and industrial development takes place.
The development of Gwadar Port, flagship project of multi-billion dollars project namely China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is the classic example of this concept. The geographical proximity and the opportunity to develop the least developed parts of China and Pakistan allow them to foster economic interdependence for mutual economic benefits with the development of a sustainable supply chain from Indian ocean to landlocked western China and vice versa.
This development will not only benefit the least developed areas of two countries but also benefit the whole region especially the landlocked Central Asian Republics (CARs) and Afghanistan.
Historically, Gwadar was a small fishing town with little else to offer to the general public. Situated on the mouth of the Gulf of Oman, Gwadar remained part of the Omani Sultanate until September 1958.
The potential of Gwadar and surrounding areas could not be realized in the past due to lack of knowledge about the benefits of the deep seaport, political will and more importantly lack of resources. Apart from various attempts to develop Gwadar as a port, the serious effort was made in 2001 when Pakistan engaged Chinese firm for the first time in development of this Port.
Chinese firm completed phase-I of the port by December 2005. In 2013, Pakistan engaged another Chinese firm again and with the agreement of all parties, the government ended its contract with the PSA and handed over control of the port to the China Overseas Port Holding Company Ltd (COPHCL) on lease for 40 years.
Currently, COPHCL is managing the operations of port through its subsidiary company Gwadar International Terminal Ltd (GITL) and development and management of free zone areas through another subsidiary Gwadar Free Zone Company (GFZ).
The terminal has a quay line of 602 meters with three (03) commercial berths and one (01) service berth. All the required equipment of international standards to handle all types of cargo is available at the port. There is an independent terminal, Al-Qasim Terminal, constructed to handle LPG cargo.
POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF GWADAR PORT:
There are a number of advantages of Gwadar port including strategic, geographic and economic advantages. It provides a direct and shortest route to China, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. Gwadar port has benefits not only for Pakistan but for the region at large. Gwadar port has largely developed a trade route for China’s landlocked western region.
This route will allow its goods and oil transport through ships to the Persian Gulf to circumvent the ‘choke point’ at the Straits of Malacca, saving a long and expensive journey around India and Southeast Asia before reaching the eastern coast of China.
Gwadar has the potential to act as a transshipment hub for Africa, the Middle East and open up access to these areas for landlocked regions in the Central Asian Republics (CARs) and East Asia. With the development of Gwadar port, all trade to and from CARs will adopt the shortest available route via Gwadar.
This port has a huge potential to handle the transit trade to Afghanistan for which the most cost-effective transit route is through Pakistan.
MILESTONES FOR OPERATIONALIZATION OF GWADAR PORT:
The presence of Pakistan Customs is there in the region since long even before the idea of the port. Customs used to issue Port clearance (PC) certificates to launch fishing in the international waters.
This region was manned by Quetta Collectorate till 2011. Without the effective presence of the workforce of Pakistan Customs, the working of the port and Free Zones was not possible. Hence, keeping in view the future prospects of Gwadar port and CPEC projects, a separate dedicated Collectorate was established in 2011.
The limits of Gwadar port area and Gwadar Free Zone area were defined and regularized through a notification by FBR on 3rd May, 2018. Currently, a dedicated Directorate of Transit Trade, Gwadar has also been notified and the existing staff of the Collectorate has been given the additional duties to look after the work of transit as well to smoothen the transit functioning of the port. In September, 2019 WeBOC system was rolled-out successfully at Gwadar port by Pakistan Customs.
There was a batch feeding Goods Declaration (GD) system till 2017 which was replaced by One-Customs. Following are the list of the milestones which Pakistan Customs have achieved at Gwadar Port;
- Automated Customs clearance system, WeBOC, is fully operational at port since 2019,
- An exclusive special classification provision 9917 was provided by Pakistan Customs to simplify the procedures for the imports at Gwadar under exemptions regimes,
- Four ships of Afghan Transit Trade in Bulk have been handled successfully at Gwadar port,
- In helping the Gwadar port to become a transshipment hub, FBR has notified the rules for the trade under International Transshipment (IT) regime. Pakistan Customs have handled eight (08) containers on IT destined to China on a trial basis. The WeBOC module of IT is under development stages,
- To encourage the coastal trade to and from Gwadar port, the rules for coastal trade have been notified. The formation of modalities to handle such cargo are also underway,
- The Customs Administrations of Pakistan and China are in consultation under “Green Customs Initiative” for hassle-free clearance of perishable goods from Gwadar Port to Chinese Ports. All the checks required at Chinese port shall be made at Gwadar in presence of Chinese Vet. Experts, Quarantine Department etc. Those consignments shall be cleared immediately after arrival at Chinese Port. There is a huge export potential of meat after clearance from Foot & Mouth Disease under this arrangement.
COVID-19 AND GWADAR PORT OPERATIONS:
Despite the ongoing Covid-19 and many other challenges, the Gwadar International Terminals have made significant developments during 2020.
The management of the terminals (GITL) proudly mentions their remarkable achievements during this year.
This includes the first international transshipment of bulk and containerized cargo, Afghan transit trade of containerized and bulk cargo, LPG imports. All remarkable achievements during Covid-19 were made possible due to active support of Pakistan Customs administrations at Gwadar Port who remained available 24/7 for speedy clearance and helping sustainable supply chain to major CPEC projects.
Global Times reported that Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, a major project under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is functioning well despite the COVID-19 pandemic. During the COVID pandemic Gwadar Customs along with GITL has completely followed the SOPs but kept the supply line open.
The slogan of WCO for this year “Customs Bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain”. A number of containerized ships carrying construction materials arrived at the port during the pandemic, offloading a dozen truckloads of goods, including steel wire, needed by the airport project in the region.
However, the pandemic could not hamper operations and import clearances rather the port operations were handled more effectively by GITL and Pakistan Customs for timely delivery of inputs for various projects in Gwadar.
It is not only Gwadar port but supply lines were kept open for essentials through Iran borders for the local population. It is important to mention that Customs officers and officials of MCC Gwadar succumbed to death during their posting at borders in the initial phase of Corona. Despite this, our commitment to safe, secure and active economic frontiers of the country is intact.
Directorate of Intelligence & Investigation-Customs, Gwadar & Quetta.
The world customs Day 2021 theme is “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience”.
The World customs day is celebrated every year internationally by the customs department of every country. Traditionally every years here is a theme which describes the role of world customs community regarding services rendered for the economy as well as for well being of the people. Customs in every country and particularly economy like Pakistan plays a very vital role. Customs monitors clearances of imported goods, facilitates exports from the country, prevents money laundering and always striving hard to curb smuggling. Smooth supplies of imported input for local consumption and subsequent exports help many sectors of the economy to recover from stagnation. It generates more economic activities and support growth of entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs in return provides a lot opportunities for employment. Multifaceted economic activities puts the country on a renewed path of growth and makes the economy more resilient.
Globally customs plays many vital functions, however, in case of Pakistan at import stage duty and taxes to the extent of 45% of the total collection which is approximately more than 4 trillion are collected by the customs. These revenues are invest by the government in different development projects like infrastructure development. It goes without saying that good infrastructure, uninterrupted power and gas supply and many services like that keep the wheel of economic activities and growth rolling.
Earning foreign exchange through exports and maintaining a balance of payments is very important. Pakistan customs through different export facilitation schemes EOUs (Export Oriented Units), DTRE (Duty and tax remission on Exports), Manufacturing Bonds and Temporary Imports schemes is significantly contributing in economic growth renewal and foreign exchange earnings.
Pakistan Customs bolstering recovery, renewal and resilience for the sustainable supply chain
Pakistan Customs is celebrating The International Customs Day, along with the rest of the World, on 26 January 2021.
In line with this year’s theme, the Directorate of IPRE is playing a critical role of facilitating free flow of legitimate imports, while keeping a check on counterfeit, fake products to bolster recovery, renewal and resilience for a sustainable supply chain.
The Intellectual Property protection and enforcement is a major tool for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI); and affects the country’s relations with major trade partners and the Generalized system of preferences (GSP) given to Pakistani exporters by them.
In fact the Trade related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is one of the three pillars of WTO.
Entrusted with a myriad of functions and responsibilities, our biggest and most immediate concern is health and safety hazards; which disrupt the chain supply and wreak havoc across the globe and to the planet as a whole.
As responsible officers and a vigilant force, under the guidance and leadership of our Chairman, Member Customs, and Director General IPRE, we keep a check on regular flow of counterfeit products; and discourage such nefarious activities.
Due to high tariff rates, especially on all luxury items, like perfumes and toiletries, the department has witnessed a sudden surge in import of hazardous counterfeit products, making them available to the public at much cheaper rates; as well as import of empty cans and bottles of all famous brands.
Curbing the menace of import/export of counterfeit products is an uphill task, but one against which we are all geared up, and vow to make a positive impact on the supply chain.
IPRE has striven hard to fulfill the vision and mission of World Intellectual Rights Organization (WIPO), by implementing key provisions of the Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan (IPO-Pakistan) Act of 2012 and making huge seizures.
Assigning foremost priority to consumer health and safety, most of these seizures are of counterfeit items including empty bottles, auto-parts, tooth-pastes, toiletries, perfumes, watches, batteries, contraceptives, calculators and makeup products.
The latest seizure was of counterfeit Auto Air bag covers, of vehicles, which are a cause of hundreds of fatal car accidents in Pakistan.
Despite of the onslaught of Covid 19, this Directorate, under the able leadership and guidance of Director General of IPRE, Rubab Sikander, has also conducted meaningful public awareness, capacity building, and training programs, via zoom meetings and otherwise, to promote IP protection and enforcement in Pakistan.
We are committed to fulfilling the mandate assigned to us in terms of border IPR controls. The IPRE South shall continue to work with its national & international stakeholders to make a success of it.
In the middle of October 2020 Pakistan Customs Karachi, took a massive stride forward in the protection of wildlife in their country and confiscated a very large consignment of illegally trapped falcons that were in the process of being smuggled out of the country.
The action itself was one that was very far from straight forward and not without considerable risk to those involved. But the training and dedication of the team from Karachi Customs saw the confiscation carried through regardless and accordingly some 75 falcons and a Houbara had suddenly to be housed, handled and generally catered for.
The illegal trade in the trapping of falcons and then smuggling them out the country is unfortunately one that has been going on for a very long time. It is fueled nowadays entirely from outside of the country by influential markets where money is no object.
However the authorities in Pakistan are fully aware of the problem, and as the actions of Pakistan Customs Karachi show, are prepared to deal with the situation head on.
Mr. Kamran Khan Yousafrzai, President of the Pakistan Falconers Association stepped in and worked with the dedicated officers from customs and a temporary sanctuary was established and the falcons from that point forth were in good and reliable hands.
Most falconers would struggle severely if given four of five falcons to suddenly cater for never mind in excess of seventy. But Mr. Yousafrzai applied his calm, professional approach and within days a form of order was brought to the chaos initially presented. It was at this point that I was contacted, in my role as Founder and Chairman of Project Lugger, and asked if I would be in a position to help at all.
The obvious answer was an immediate yes. As well as organising a couple of volunteers to fly out with me I managed to put Project Luggers vet in touch directly with the vet in Karachi assigned to look to the medical needs of the falcons. The Project also donated 100 microchips and a couple of applicators as well as sorting some basic medical supplies.
Myself and two volunteers duly arrived at Karachi airport and officers from Customs were on hand to help smooth our passage and after a while we were, certainly in my case, once again happily on Pakistan soil. Despite the fact it was around 4am we drove straight to the Customs Sanctuary to have a look at the work that was before us.
It was obvious this was going to be a considerable task that we would be cooperating on, but the welfare of the falcons was to override all other considerations. Accordingly with the benefit of just a few short hours sleep we were straight into what needed to be done.
As is so often the case, fresh eyes can often see a fresh approach, and so we three volunteers worked with the three Pakistan falconers that had been engaged and together with Mr. Yousafrzai we formulated a new daily rota and a stream lining of the daily handling process. We were all too well aware that we would be leaving again relatively shortly and the systems established would have to be manageable by half the people once we had departed.
I like to think that our presence did in fact help with the overall welfare of the confiscated falcons and that morally it was something of a boost to those on the front line in Karachi. Certainly our presence helped focus some of the international media on the issue and the outstanding work carried out by Pakistan Customs Karachi as well as that of Mr. Yousafrzai and his team.
For me personally, as an international Falconer of more than fifty years standing and also an avid and active conservationist in the field of raptors, it was an honour to be involved in such an action as this. However, it was clear that further help was going to be required and so I assured both Customs Karachi and Mr. Yousafrzai that I would return and help see the job through.
I arranged for myself to come for six weeks and to be accompanied by two groups of three volunteers for a three week period each. But the surge in the Covid Pandemic in Europe put paid to that and so I returned with one other volunteer to help as and where we can.
Whilst back home in the UK I did ensure that the European media were made fully aware of the magnificent and groundbreaking steps taken by Pakistan Customs Karachi and the collaboration with The Pakistan Falconers Association that facilitated the aftermath of the consignment seizure.
The world media appears to have taken this action to both screen and the printed page and I have seen interviews I gave to the media whilst here in Pakistan in approximately nine different countries and also in newspapers as far apart as Belgium and Japan.
Personally I would like to thank both Pakistan Customs Karachi and Mr. Yousafrzai for allowing me to be part of this ground breaking action. As always I have met with nothing but kindness and a sense of true welcome by all I have met. Special thanks indeed must go to Mr. Haroon and Mr. Shafi Ullah. It is an honour sirs, for me to assist you in some small way in your work.
Bob Dalton has been a falconer for more than fifty years and has hunted with falcons in more than 35 countries. He is also a passionate raptor conservationist and is the founder and chairman of Project Lugger, a charity set up to try and conserve the wild Lugger Facon (Falco jugger).
Graham Dudmish is a falconer of 35 years standing and for many years also made the finest quality Falconry Equipment.
Hielko Van Rijthoven. A very experienced Dutch Falconer who is a major part of the “Wings of Change” in Holland. An organization that works with the underprivileged people in the Dutch Community.
New Smuggling Paradigm: Challenges and State’s Response
Every year, the World Customs Organization celebrates International Customs Day on 26th of January to spotlight matters related to Customs, business and trade affecting lives and economies across the globe.
The worldwide celebrations on this day portrays solidarity among the Customs administrations alongside focusing on critical issues faced or achievements made during the year. Year 2020 was marked with unprecedented challenges which deeply affected and profusely bled many economies as global trade suffered a deep plunge due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic related SOP’s, emphasized minimum interaction and isolation to prevent spread of this deadly virus. Despite this, the officers and staff of Pakistan Customs served fully exposed to this danger at the forefront and bravely discharged their official duties without any fear.
The role of Pakistan Customs by all means qualifies WCO’s current year theme, “Customs bolstering recovery, renewal and resilience for a sustainable supply chain”.
As a matter of fact, national borders are still very sacrosanct demarcations for nation states for security and economic reasons. States’ effective control on their entry and exits points and borders ensures optimum revenue along with safety and security for their societies.
Against this backdrop, there is a paradigm shift about the perception of Customs. The policy-makers are now more inclined to view Customs as an enforcement agency instead of its traditional perception as a revenue collection establishment.
This shift has become more pronounced in recent years especially under the incumbent political regime. The present leadership of Pakistan Customs has successfully adapted to this new perception and expectation. Notably, Customs has tactfully assumed this new role without losing its position as the key contributor towards revenue collection.
The geo-strategic location of Pakistan offers enormous fortunes as well as challenges. Its landmass is situated on the historic Silk Route to act as a conduit to transit trade, besides having a huge domestic demand for consumer goods.
The long porous border with Iran and Afghanistan serves as the traditional smuggling route for all types of goods. The proximity of these lands with the Arabian Sea further adds to this vulnerability, which has been exploited by smugglers. In current times, this challenge has grown into a multi-dimensional problem that can potentially damage our society, national exchequer and domestic industry.
The endless list of smuggling prone items that includes fabric, tyres, medicine, household items, professional tools, hybrid vehicles, environmental and health hazardous goods, etc. and items which are restricted otherwise have also become a profitable temptation for the smugglers.
Historically, in Pakistan, smuggling as a profitable illegal business has evolved through different stages and so have the dynamics of enforcement operations. Firstly, during the conventional era, smuggled goods were owned by the shopkeepers of major markets and the smugglers provided those goods at their doorstep.
Smuggling dens at that time were identifiable and were only in a few places in the shape of bara markets. The succeeding era was the middle stage of this evolution, during which the smugglers started to supply their own smuggled goods to the doorstep of shopkeepers and wholesalers of the major market, malls in megacities on long dues.
Finally, in the current era, the smugglers have bought their own outlets, shops and warehouses in the major cities and they work in cartels.
They now control complete trade cycles; own goods, manage financing, maneuver passage of goods and finally sell at their self-owned outlets in major cities. Alarmingly, they have developed their own strategies to jointly resist enforcement efforts by state agencies specially Customs.
Their tactics include stiff resistance, hooliganism, frivolous complaints, harassment, creating law and order situation, road blocking, sit-ins and also resorting to firing. They also attempt to politicize the matter and, being resourceful, use all possible means to pressurize enforcement agencies.
All enforcement Collectorates during their recent anti-smuggling operations have confronted such situations with varying intensity. However, despite all these odds, Pakistan Customs has emerged as a resilient force with outstanding anti-smuggling performance on its credit. The major push factor behind this performance is realization at the highest level of policy making that smuggling is a curse that must be dealt with an iron hand.
The much needed driving force is infused through the vision of the Honorable Prime Minister of Pakistan, who accorded top priority to eliminate smuggling, by launching Federal Government’s anti-smuggling drive. In this regard, the decision to give the lead role to Pakistan Customs resulted in enhanced confidence for the service to venture on countrywide difficult operations, which were not earlier conceived or taken on.
Besides reposing trust on Pakistan Customs, multiple forums were also created under the new anti-smuggling initiative which has pooled all state resources together to act jointly against the smugglers. The National, Provincial and Divisional Level Task Forces have provided a very effective platform for intelligence sharing, coordination and execution of anti-smuggling operations to Customs formations.
Model Customs Collectorate, Enforcement & Compliance, Karachi, has been in the vanguard in this drive. It successfully surpassed almost all monthly anti-smuggling targets assigned by the Board with significant margins in the last year.
The enforcement strategy adopted, instead of soft targets, focused on daring operations on dumping places located at commercial centers of the city like Designers Mall, Tariq Road, Shershah Site area, Banaras, Kharadar, Bolton Market, SITE B Area and Saddar. The Anti-smuggling Organization has carried out around 100 major anti-smuggling operations and seized the largest quantities of different goods valuing Rs. 9.384 billion during the year 2020.
Besides conventional seizures, this Collectorate planned and executed an international operation in collaboration with the Afghan authorities and international anti-narcotics agencies worth Rs. 93 billion having FATF related significance and global acknowledgement.
This is, so far, the only international operation carried out with active participation with international enforcement agencies and other member countries of WCO Network. Amongst these milestones, another major feather in the cap is the unprecedented seizure of 75 falcons and one houbara bustard of endangered species.
This seizure and subsequent rehabilitation project of the endangered birds launched with the assistance of international donors has earned international recognition for the department. The news has built a soft image of the country as was widely reported by international electronic and print media including BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Khaleej Times, Express Tribune, The Hindu, Gulf News, etc.
The Collectorate also made historic seizures of narcotics and their precursors in joint and individual operations, worth Rs. 4700 million approx.. during last year, which is stellar performance on this account. Be that as it may, in view of the enormity of anti-smuggling challenge and expectations, maintaining this momentum is by no means going to be a low risk task or an easy picking affair.
The current outstanding performance of Pakistan Customs in all domains of anti-smuggling is the result of its strategic approach, effective planning, dedication and professionalism. In this regard, the on-going nationwide operation against smuggled petroleum products, spearheaded by Pakistan Customs, is continuation of this zeal and reflection of the existing political will, capable leadership of Customs, motivated workforce and, above all, national resolve to root out the menace of smuggling.
Combating counterfeit FMCGs
FMCG stands for fast-moving consumer goods such as soft drinks, dairy products, toiletries (e.g. toothpaste, deodorants, soaps), batteries and even some forms of over the counter medication. FMCGs are sold at low prices and have a high rate of consumption.
They are always in demand and are also called consumer packaged goods (CPG). Well-known FMCG companies in Pakistan include Unilever, Proctor and Gamble, GlaxoSmithKline, Nestlé and The Coca-Cola Company. The hallmark of these companies is continuous improvement and innovation.
Over the last few decades, drug cartels have shifted their focus to trade in counterfeit and pirated fast moving consumer goods. This shift offers them high profits with low risks and minor penalties. However counterfeiting is a trans-border crime that not only violates intellectual property rights, but further endangers public health and consumer safety.
A study conducted by European Union Intellectual Property Organisation (EUPIO) in 2015, looks into the direct and indirect industry revenue losses and job losses due to the presence of counterfeit products, such as perfumes, beauty and make-up, and other personal care products.
It also looks at the impact on public finance. €4.7 billion of revenue is lost annually by the sector, whereas €4.8 billion of sales are lost in related sectors accompanied by thousands of job losses.
Realizing the need to target counterfeit FMCGs a Joint Customs Operation (JCO) “HYGIEA” was organized by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in association with the administration of Asia Europe meeting (ASEM). ASEM is an intergovernmental platform of 51 member states of Europe & Asia, created for the purpose of cooperation on areas of mutual interest including Customs with the objective of strengthening relationships between Asian and European countries.
In addition to the member countries, two observer organizations, OLAF and EUROPOL also participated in the operation. FBR nominated the Directorate General of IPR (Enforcement), Islamabad to serve as a national contact point for this operation.
A debriefing meeting of the operation was scheduled by European Anti-Fraud Office with a view to evaluate the performance of 38 participating countries out of 51 members of ASEM during the specified operation period of five months.
A final report on JCO HYGIEA formulated by OLAF reveals that a total of 194,498 pieces of counterfeit perfumes, toothpaste, cosmetics as well as 120,833,69kg of counterfeit detergent, shampoo, and diapers were detained and seized as direct results of the operation targeting counterfeit FMCG products.
The performance of Pakistan Customs was at the top followed by Malta, Italy, France and Bangladesh. This outstanding performance of Pakistan Customs IPR (Enforcement) was acknowledged by the OLAF, EUROPOL, ASEM and all participating member states of the JCO HYGIEA.
During the operational phase of HYGIEA, OLAF facilitated the cooperation between the participant countries with the support of a team of ten liaison officers from Bangladesh, China, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Spain and EUROPOL, all working together in Brussels.
A Virtual Operational Coordination Unit (VOCU) – a secure communication channel for the joint customs operations was used to channel the flow of incoming information. This exchange of information in real time allowed all the experts involved to identify the suspect flows of counterfeit goods out of ordinary commercial transactions.
JCO HYGIEA was a success story as summed up by: Mr. Ville Itala, Director General of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF):
“Operation Hygiea shows what can be achieved when customs authorities, international partners and industry work together to fight fakes. Counterfeit goods defraud consumers, harm legitimate businesses and cause huge losses to public revenues. Counterfeit goods also undermine public health policies. When fakes flood our markets, the only ones to benefit are fraudsters and criminals. I warmly congratulate all those that participated in Operation HYGIEA for the excellent results”
Pakistan Customs through the Directorate General of IPR Enforcement continues to intercept, detain and seize consignments of counterfeit FMCG products. One of our significant achievements was to seize massive quantities of counterfeit Sensodyne toothpastes both at import stage and in transit shipments.
The representatives of GSK particularly lauded Customs IPR’s efforts in seizing these products. Mr. Marc Lambert – Senior Manager, Anti-Counterfeiting, Legal Brand Protection GSK (London) specially paid a visit to Pakistan to express his gratitude to Pakistan Customs.
We continue to build on this trust and cooperation while realising the imminent need to dismantle fraudulent organisations involved in trafficking of counterfeit FMCG products. Eventually we should all be geared up with a renewed energy to combat counterfeit FMCGs through focused, innovative techniques.
Pakistan Customs Stands Resilient in Wake of Covid-19 Pandemic
The International Customs fraternity came together this year to recognize the services of World Customs in fortifying and strengthening the sustainable supply chain through effective recovery, renewal and resilience during the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
This year’s slogan is a testimony to the selfless contribution of Customs as a global fraternity emphasizing the aspect of organizational responsibility towards fostering a sustainable supply chain in the wake of national lockdowns and worldwide disruptions of legitimate imports and exports.
Customs being an essential service has effectively attained its strategic mission of ensuring sustainability of supply chain while coping effectively with multi-faceted and complex challenges at regional and international levels, which arose due to the Covid pandemic.
Pakistan Customs in line with this year’s slogan has been successfully performing its tasks of revenue collection, effective enforcement and protection and facilitation of legitimate trade while strictly implementing all Covid-19 safety protocols.
These trade facilitating measures have successfully ensured service delivery through online collection of leviable duties, paperless clearances, promoting and facilitating legitimate imports and exports and un-interrupted cross-border movement of goods.
Throughout the pandemic, Pakistan Customs Operations continued unhindered and extraordinary trade facilitation measures ensured minimum loss to business. This is evident from improvement of Pakistan ranking of Trading Across Border Index from 142nd to 111th and World Bank’s ease of doing business index from 136th to 108th rank.
Pakistan Customs have achieved this milestone through strengthening the global supply chain, reinforcing collaboration, harnessing technology and putting ‘people’ at the center of the digital transformation process, while paying particular attention to automation, use of innovative technology and adoption of collaborative approaches with all stakeholders along the supply chain.
Thus, Pakistan Customs has been at the frontline during this ‘New Normal’ environment, inspecting incoming and outgoing passengers and cargo and allowing movement of vessels and aircrafts while safeguarding national security through adoption of National Government policy in collaboration with all relevant law enforcement agencies and health departments.
Pakistan Customs officers and officials have selflessly served round the clock ensuring immediate clearances of essential medical supplies, medical equipment and life-saving drugs at all airports. Similarly, all imports and exports at sea-ports and borders have been facilitated under restrictive SOPs protocols while ensuring proper examinations and assessment of goods to plug any revenue leakages and securing legitimate government revenue.
Facilitation, Security of Trade by Pakistan Customs Through ICT-Based Solutions
Farheen Zahra & Malaika Jaffari.
Customs administrations across the world are facing expanding responsibilities due to changes, brought by globalization, such as increase in trade volumes, international security threats, seamless integration with international supply chains and a rise in international trade agreements.
As Dean Kamen said, “Every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into an innovation.”
Advancement in technology in recent years has completely changed the world outlook. With automation in every field, continuous efforts are required to remain relevant in the existing changing scenario.
Similarly, in order to cater and adapt to rapidly changing international trading environment, Pakistan Customs is consistently reforming existing procedures and workflow in compliance with international commitments that may enable it to be more responsive and to address the growing role of trade facilitation and to promote export led growth.
Pakistan Customs, with the use of technology, is refining existing procedures to implement best international practices in order to adopt a globalized modern approach towards facilitation and unification of trade.
Many initiatives have been adopted in trade processes among which Pakistan Single Window is the most important initiative which provides one-stop electronic platform for lodging of trade documents, promoting cross-border customs co-operation and expediting trade declarations and customs clearances.
Pakistan Customs, being a signatory of TIR convention, is connected through land route with the neighboring countries, but lately an automated multi-modal facility for processing TIR cargo through sea ports has also been introduced, which will open up new avenues to the country’s regional and international trade.
Moreover, a dedicated transit trade portal has been developed that provides real time tracking of transit cargo and online lodging of complaints against delays in clearance of transit goods, which will result in increasing the efficiency and transparency of the trade.
Exports from Pakistan have shown an exponential growth in four months reaching to US$2.4 billion in December, 2000 as compared to US $ 16 billion in August 2020, showing about 50 percent growth.
In the backdrop of pandemic Covid-19, to make Pakistani products competitive vis-à-vis its competitors in the International Market, a risk based automated duty drawback payment system has been introduced in which duty drawback claims of exporters, on the basis of risk profile, are processed and an electronic payment advice is generated to State Bank of Pakistan, for direct disbursement of the same to the bank accounts of exporters.
Duty draw-back of at least eight sectors were revised upwards by FBR and more than 7800 exports have yet been benefited from this initiative.
Recently, a pilot project of Authorized Economic Operator Programmed has been launched in Karachi wherein, trusted traders with clean profiles are given priority in WeBOC for speedy clearance resulting in enabling the trusted traders to become part of the global AEO community for seamless movement of their cargo through international borders.
A new module of Automated Customs duty exemption regime has also been introduced which is a very important initiative as it has reduced the time of receiving of requisite document / certificate from other Government authorities like EDB, AEDB etc, by uploading documents through its WeBOC User-ID, whenever required.
Moreover, in order to enhance the ease of doing business, an online duty calculator has been launched wherein anyone interested in knowing the applicable duty / taxes on any item intended to be imported into Pakistan from abroad can calculate it without the requirement of any ID or password.
To strengthen counter-smuggling operations, Pakistan Customs has launched an online counter-smuggling portal for maintaining a database to monitor and identify the smuggled goods and actors involved in it.
In this system, online electronic detention / seizure memos, lodging of FIRs and investigation recordings are maintained. The portal also provides the facility to Customs for management of seized smuggled goods through its state warehouse management module.
Pakistan Customs remains committed to innovation and progress to address new challenges faced on a day to day basis. A reformed, technologically advanced Customs shall be able to efficiently perform its multiple critical roles of trade facilitation, enforcement and protection of borders, market, environment, cultural heritage and internal security thus enabling Pakistan to actualize its growth and prosperity potential.
Post Pandemic Evolution of Global Supply Chains and the Role of Customs
For much of the world, the pandemic disrupted life as it knew it. From causing an unprecedented public health crisis and overburdening health care systems to disrupting supply chains and trade flows, it will take a long time for us to untangle from the damage caused by the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global trade and exposed vulnerabilities in our supply chains hitherto unrecognized. From shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) to delays in acquiring medicines and food items, the pandemic revealed the key inherent weaknesses in our global trade and supply chains .
As front line fighters against the barriers created by COVID-19, Customs departments had their resilience and flexibility tested by the pandemic, as they tried to maintain vital operations in the face of the crisis.
Short term measures were taken by most customs administrations over the world to check the disruption in supply chains and reduce the need for human intervention. Pakistan Customs, for instance, diligently played its role in facilitating the public in these adverse circumstances.
Measures were taken for swift clearance of medicines, food items, and equipment pertaining to treatment of Covid. Moreover, the government waived off all duties and taxes on the import of essential materials necessary for containing and combating the COVID-19 pandemic and 24/7 clearance of Cargo at Ports/Airports and land borders stations was done during the pandemic to ensure supply chain continuity.
Meanwhile, the web-based customs clearance services helped all clients declare pay and request for services without having to visit Customs Offices.
These, however, were only short term measures. What remains to be seen now is how the long term evolution of supply chains and international trade will take place post the COVID-19 pandemic and how the associated stakeholders will adapt.
With much speculation over the pandemic resulting in permanent changes on global trade, there is expectation that the structure of demand and the associated supply chains in the long run will go major changes.
Industries with extensive value chains including developing countries are likely to undergo drastic transformation. Demand for autos and clothing may go down with many companies opting to continue with the work-from-home modus operandi resulting in lesser need for daily commute and everyday office wear. Similarly, the demand for electronics may go up.
These changes will require supply chain leaders and stakeholders like the Customs authorities to adapt their procedures and processes accordingly.
Long term support to supply chains from Customs will need a major shift in the Customs decision-making process, customs procedures and customs formalities with a reduction in the level of human intervention required in all of these.
Many Governments implemented restrictions related to international trade and transport to curb the spread of the pandemic causing interruptions to international trade flows and value chains leading to negative social and economic effects in the countries concerned.
Consequently, Governments and border agencies, including customs administrations, need reforms to keep trade moving while protecting populations and workers in the face of barriers like the COVID-19 pandemic in future.
One likely key reform area is an increase in the pace of automation in departments like Customs as both firms and government organisations are now aware of the risks of potential disruption in supply chains from pandemics and other eventualities like these.
These risks make the cost of automation a necessary investment required to adapt to rapidly the changing requirements of maintaining supply chains and trade flows.
The World Customs day theme for celebrating the annual World Customs Day on 26th January this year resonates with these expected changes. This year, around the globe, Customs Administrations will celebrate World Customs Day under the slogan “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain”.
This year’s WCO theme focuses on the digitization of supply chain processes, instating swift data sharing mechanisms across supply chains and strengthening collaboration of Customs Administrations to make Customs more resilient and better prepared for future contingencies.
Pakistan Customs has already taken steps in line with this year’s theme.
To streamline trade activities across the border and reduce dwell times, Pakistan Customs is serving as the lead agency for implementation of NSW (National Single Window), a platform that will connect relevant government departments with each other and with economic operators like importers, exporters, customs agents, shipping agents, and transporters in Pakistan for efficient management of cross border trade via a single point of entry.
Pakistan ratified the WTO’s Agreement on Trade Facilitation on 27th October, 2015 and under its Article 10.4 committed to the establishment of a trade related National Single Window (NSW) with an implementation timeline of five years with effect from 22nd February, 2017.
Pakistan Customs has not only made substantial progress on NSW implementation but is also already working on improving cross border trade facilitation.
The indigenously developed Customs Single Window has already been implemented in the shape of WeBOC, which handles 90% of Pakistan’s external trade providing 24/7 paperless processing services and end to end automated customs clearance of import and export of goods, thereby reducing customs processing time (under 04 hours).
The upgraded version WeBOC-Glo includes new modules and functionalities that ensure speedy processing and improved user interface. This plays a major role in integration of supply chains and promotion of trade facilitation but will also enhance controls through integrated risk management.
Once fully implemented, the NSW will eliminate the need for physical engagement between the traders and regulators while simplifying the procedures and improving predictability.
So far, Pakistan Customs has shown great commitment and professionalism in its implementation. This shows its resolve towards fostering sustainability which gives hope for a much more resilient, responsive and sustainable system that will be better adapted to crises like the Covid- 19 pandemic in future.
During the reconstruction process after the world begins to assess the real damage the pandemic has wreaked havoc on supply chains globally, Customs will have to assume a leadership role, at national and international levels and work for coordinated border management in an efficient and sustainable manner to ensure that the world is even better prepared the next time a crisis like this arises.
Pakistan Customs: A Futuristic Organization
International Customs Day is celebrated every year on 26th January and this year WCO’s theme is “Customs bolstering recovery, renewal and resilience for a sustainable supply chain.”
Each year’s theme adopted by WCO revolved around various characters depicting Customs’ lineaments, contours and its cross-border / trans-national significance.
Importantly, in today’s world of neoliberal trade and free markets, the role of Customs as an enforcement and facilitation agency has not only increased exponentially but has exposed the department towards multiple challenges, having huge magnanimity.
It is not only engaged in imports, exports and counter-smuggling, but has marked its effectiveness in other areas of economic development, which is aimed at protection of the economic frontier, national exchequer and society at large.
In the last few decades, the quantity of goods traded and speed of transportation has increased. With advent of new world order, neoliberal business models prevailed all across the world, which was later formalized by different WTO agreements.
These agreements are characterized by provision of free-market, universal accessibility and removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers. These agreements came with another specification of protection of legal trade by curbing smuggling and informal / illegitimate trade and related ancillary issues.
With these developments Pakistan Customs had to depart from traditional ways of handling and processing goods / trade, and device new procedures and mechanisms to deal with modern trade requirements and cope up with increased quantities of traded goods, both at imports and exports stages.
Coupled with that, another work undertaken by Customs was to design new patterns of anti-smuggling to curb informal trade / smuggling. Amidst globalization and ruthless consumerism, a number of products are in demand in the market to satiate the requirements of Pakistan’s market.
From daily use fabric, household items to professional tools, hybrid vehicles, the demand is for the best quality and cheapest cost. This situation has begotten increased smuggling, at times to evade the taxes and to secure product quality, at others.
Coupled with a burgeoning population, the rate of consumption has lured many to deviate from national laws and turn to smuggling, besides counterfeiting / piracy of registered products. This scenario resulted in establishment new specialized formations in Pakistan Customs, speedy disposal of goods by completion of legal requirements and modernization through information technology.
With the establishment of PRAL, the Central Board of Revenue (now Federal Board of Revenue) initiated modernization through information technology in 1994. However, the milestone was only achieved with designing and implementation of PaCCS in 2007, followed by Weboc roll out in 2013.
These programs were designed keeping in view a huge increase in trade in the early 2000s. These systems automated all the manual procedures of clearing goods, replacing erstwhile pre-release requirements of bill of entry containing 64 signatures and 32 verification, with online filing of goods declaration and allocation into one of three channels of cargo based on the importer’s profile. End of the customs process was now only a click away.
In order to remain competitive, Pakistan Customs not only created dedicated formations in important land and sea border areas for imports and exports, but separate formations were also created to curb any unscrupulous element misusing formal procedure and bringing into or out of Pakistan goods through smuggling. More import / export terminals and off-dock facilities were notified.
Apart from it, Customs, as an organization, developed other specialized formations like Post-Clearance and Internal Audit, Adjudication Collectorate, Directorate of Reforms and Automation, Directorate of Cross-Border Currency Movement, and lately Border Management Force to effect specialized tasks more efficiently and effectively. Moreover, disputes related to the valuation of imported and exported items were also subjected to solution through valuation rulings based on different formulae present in section 25 of Customs Act, 1969.
This provided an instant solution to the products of technical specification and reduced their dwell time sufficiently.
Customs contribution to the protection of society is indispensable in modern times, when populace is exposed to usage of all sorts products / items manufactured in foreign countries.
The government notifies rules for certain items in order to ban or restrict them considering the well-being of the people at large. However, enforcement of those laws at the import / export / transit stage and prevention of their illegal / informal trade is again the responsibility of customs. It is open to easy comprehension that anti-smuggling in Karachi, adjacent areas and borders of Balochistan would always require more resources and efforts than deemed necessary. Owing to the fact, that Customs, being a specialized department, has always been understaffed and under-resourced even today.
The fact can very well be appreciated that current successes of confiscation of narcotic drugs, banned items, endangered falcons, Indian fabric and other high value items throughout the south came only with a team of 30 officers and 70 sepoys, performing uncompromisingly and risking their lives.
For serious protection of economic borders of the country and securing society and domestic industry alike, it is mandatory that Pakistan Customs may be immediately equipped with more human and material resources to execute the action against smuggling more firmly. Besides these customs law enforcement issues, the general understanding, cultural acceptance and redressal of public opinion are also included in the bucket.
Be that as it may, it is a commonplace fact that smuggling in our country has no negative cultural sanctions, and therefore, smuggling as an offence is also not considered a deviation from societal ethos and patterns. This has been bluntly manifested into public reaction to various operations conducted by Pakistan Customs in Karachi.
In a number of cases, main roads were blocked and markets were closed down, apart from holding sit-in before Press Clubs, Governor House and other political offices. Notably, these demonstrations were staged in a political style and for political sort of demands. Cultural non-acceptance of smuggling as a crime is also manifested in the fact that smugglers not only demonstrate public power, but they are not treated by society as an offender or a criminal. This is an important area, where sufficient education, cultural change and accurate conditioning is required, on part of government.
Lest smuggling is made a deviation as strong as theft, robbery and murder, customs laws shall become ever more difficult to enforce for Pakistan Customs. Since no unusual smuggling activity is reported even by legitimate business traders and the general public, the assistance of customs in this regard has become too far a dream.
Last year witnessed the pandemic of Covid-19, where strict lockdowns and SOPs brought life to stand-still globally. This situation was tackled and operations continued unhindered due to futuristic procedures and approach of Pakistan Customs. Almost all transactions in customs i.e. imports, exports, Export Processing Zones, transit trade etc. were already carried out through web-based application of Pakistan Custom named WeBOC.
Utility of WeBOC not only contributed to continuation of work-from-home, but substantial relief and aid goods, medical equipment and other essential goods continued to be traded for welfare of populace. Due to this futuristic approach and excessive use of information technology, administration of Customs continued without spread of virus and much face-to-face interaction of the people.
Presently, almost every process of Customs from anchoring of ships / landing of plans, filing of goods declaration, their examination and payment of duties is performed through internet based software. The traders, thus, become the people to receive the delivery of goods at ports, safely and carry out their businesses as usual.
Although Pakistan Customs has been upright in enforcing laws against smuggling and securing economy and people at large, there is severe need to acclimatize and educate people regarding prevailing customs laws, being directly relevant to them. Without cultural support and people-to-people awareness, it is not possible to promote legal trade and curb the menace of illegal trade completely.
Threat of the time is bigger than the resources available with the government, which, if upgraded, may prove instrumental for quick betterment of the country. Modernization, specialization and unique administrative culture has given futuristic outlook to Pakistan Customs, which is ever-ready to face any challenge like Covid-19 situation, increase of illegal and illegal trade.
With sincere approach towards solutions and dedicated efforts, the day shall be nearing for Pakistan to rise among comity of nations as a modern, transparent, smuggling-free country and healthy economy.
Customs Bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a Sustainable Supply Chain
The World Customs Organization’s theme for International Customs Day 2021 truly encompasses what customs formations all over the world have been through in a post-Covid world.
The onset of Covid-19 has set up a new milestone in global history where the future will see the last century as a post-cold war, post-9/11 and a post-Covid world.
The ability of corporations to develop supply-chain networks was the basis of globalization. The very foundation of this dynamic world has been threatened by Covid-19 as countries on the bottom of the supply chain began to close down as a method to deal with the rapidly spreading virus.
Not only did this raise a point on the fragility of the supply chain network, it once again highlighted the importance of developing seamless trade systems, automated risk management systems and international coordination between different customs authorities to ensure that trade activities continue.
Critics and analysts all over the world agree that the impact of Covid-19 on trade and related activities shall be long-lasting and continuous efforts will be needed to recover from both the visible and unseen losses occurred.
Customs authorities all over the world have been working throughout the pandemic. In Pakistan, Customs activities were marked as frontline mandatory operations by the government.
The staff continued to ensure smooth supply of goods such as medical equipment, protective gear, sanitizers and masks. Customs vigilance ensured that counterfeit, illegal and smuggled items were deterred. In the course of these activities, many personnel lost their lives to the virus.
1,483 epidemic events in 172 countries were tracked by the WHO between 2011 and 2018 and certain recommendations on the preparedness of governments were made. Pandemics are not the only risk that supply chain networks face in the world.
There are cyber-attacks, national disasters, wars and maritime threats that need to be taken into account before formulating any policies. The preparedness of different customs organizations in the world under the auspices of WCO reinforced the commitment of customs personnel that were already working under the pressure of the government for matters related to revenue collection.
The current times prove that Customs authorities should be involved in strategy and policy making because their preparedness includes a regional PESTLE Analysis of the business and work environment.
Covid-19 is a harbinger of renewal and speeding up processes related to modernization of Customs. The Pakistan Single Window, a project pioneered by Pakistan Customs, will be rolled out in the country tentatively in June 2021, making inter-agency coordination and strong linkages- a possibility.
Cooperation and communication can change the reactive strategies into proactive functioning thus also contributing to the overall economic well-being of the country.
While the world was putting up a fight against the pandemic, criminals saw this as an opportunity for fraudulent activities. Using the fear amongst people as a driving force, offenders all over the world have attempted to introduce counterfeit and substandard equipment and protective instruments in the market.
In order to ensure that genuine supply chains were not affected, WCO launched an Intellectual Property Rights module on the CENcomm platform. Pakistan Customs is also in the process of uploading data onto this platform to contribute to the process of information sharing.
Customs Administrations all over the world have shown commendable resilience to the challenges presented since the onset of Covid-19 pandemic. Quick responses and non-standard solutions through automated processes have made it possible to continue routine activities- with improvisation.
The need for a secure and contactless border has never been highlighted so strongly before. The environment in which customs operates is gradually changing. In order to keep up with the fast pace of these changing dynamics, customs authorities must vow to keep improving. Adaptability and learning will be at the core of this improvement.
In the long term, more programs like the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) Program will have to be introduced even for air cargo. This will reduce unnecessary delays and rerouting of cargo flights. It will take a long time for the aviation industry to recover from the impact of Covid-19.
The pandemic has made the world realize that air cargo has been crucial during the provision of health and safety supplies to different parts of the world. For them to remain functional a balance will have to be created between enforcement measures and facilitation so that the economic impact on cargo flights can be reduced.
This will include dropping some quarantine regulations, training employees, introducing improved risk management systems and establishing quick response procedures. Preparedness for any unpredictable situation in the future is the key to effective Customs operations. This is a commitment that is endorsed on this International Customs Day.
Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience
This year, the World Customs Organization (WCO) has chosen the theme “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain” to mark the World Customs Day this year.
Around 190 Customs administrations celebrate World Customs Day under the leadership of World Customs Organization (WCO) each year on 26th January.
This year’s theme is in line with current challenges faced by governments around the globe in handling the COVID-19 induced crisis.
The theme shows the resolve of WCO to guide and lead the way for Customs Administrations to become resilient to such shocks in future through promotion of resilience and sustainability.
Customs, along with other border agencies, has a crucial role in facilitating trade and integrating border procedures as has been reiterated by COVID-19 pandemic which has demonstrated critical and central role of Customs in ensuring seamless operation of supply chains and preventing barriers like the pandemic from becoming a roadblock in the transportation of essential items like medical goods across the borders.
In line with this year’s theme, Customs administrations around the globe will be encouraged to incorporate digitization at their borders by introducing automation with the use of AI and other innovative technologies.
These include digital and paperless clearance methods, and single window systems for facilitating and accelerating processes while eliminating red-tapism. Incorporating Artificial Intelligence in Customs systems can serve as a game changer in this regard and can also offer supportive functions like data sharing and data analysis.
The major roadblocks faced during the pandemic drives home the point that for socio-economic recovery and more resilient systems, supply chains require more effective coordination across borders and efficient transport systems.
Efficient intermodal transport system would employ internationally recognised instruments like the United Nations TIR Convention and its eTIR International System, the CMR Convention and its eCMR Protocol and the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA). These allow for contactless cross border cargo movement eliminating the need for people to people contact.
Coordinated border management through Single Window systems allow traders to communicate electronically with all agencies involved. Pakistan has made significant strides in this regard since it ratified the WTO’s Agreement on Trade Facilitation on 27th October, 2015 and committed to the establishment of a trade related National Single Window (NSW) with an implementation timeline of five years with effect from 22nd February, 2017.
The Government, in October, 2017, designated Pakistan Customs as the lead agency for implementation of Pakistan Single Window before February, 2022.The Single Window system will connect all stakeholders via integrated Declarations and will eliminate the current practice of filing and pursuing separate applications to Customs and Other Government Departments (OGAs).
Information sharing regarding goods that require Licenses., Permits, Certificates from OGAs will be automated which will improve regulatory controls and transparency. Most importantly, paper-less processing will reduce dwell times and make it easier to regulate economic operators.
Work is well underway on the Pakistan Single Window and efforts of Pakistan Customs are bearing fruits. Concerted efforts by the Pakistan Customs, under FBR, have led to impressive performance in terms of compliance to the provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Trade Facilitation Agreement. Pakistan has been able to reduce the dwell time for imports and exports by increasing the percentage of clearances through Green Channel as part of its Risk Management system.
The Pakistan Single Window would further integrate online over 45 government departments or agencies in Pakistan and would make trading across borders a hassle-free and seamless operation. Pakistan has climbed 31 spots recently on Trading Across Border Index, a testament to the efforts of FBR and Pakistan Customs.
Regional cooperation on trade facilitation and transport connectivity is the need of the hour.
In order to address the vulnerability of Customs to risks like pandemics, Customs administrations will have to build greater resilience with policy makers keeping people central to their decision making models. Customs will have to rethink their operations in such a way as to build their capacity for coping with risks like pandemics in future with minimum costs.
The WCO’s theme this year for International Customs Day, “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience” should serve as a guiding post and reference for Customs Administrations looking towards a more sustainable future and it is hoped, that Pakistan Customs will, once again show their professionalism and resolve by being at the forefront of this effort.
Inception of Port Control Units in Pakistan and their role in creating Secure Business Environment
The modern world is doing its best to utilize its time in the best possible way, while doing business or trade.
Considering the quantum of international trade through the sea freight containers, which has crossed the volume of more than 500 Million TEUs moving in the international global trade chain per year.
This makes it practically impossible for any Customs Administration to target and examine each and every shipment which is either leaving, entering or transiting through their land, border or sea routes considering the local and international threat perceptions.
According to the studies carried out by the UNODC, more than 500 M.Tons of Heroin is being produced in Afghanistan and 40% of this is routed through Pakistan to reach the International markets in West Africa, Europe USA and Canada.
Pakistan is providing transit facility to its neighbor Afghanistan for movement of their commercial cargo and the Port of Karachi and Port Muhammad Bin Qasim are being used for shipment of transit goods to international market.
Since the inception of maritime sea-freight containers which on the one hand has facilitated the swift and safe movement of cargo but on the other hand these sea-freight containers are being illicitly used for the transportation of goods other than what is declared.
These sea-freight containers therefore, pose a great threat to the international trade supply chain. It was in 2004 when the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and World Customs Organization, visualized the problems and threat of illicit use of sea freight containers and introduced the Container Control Programme (CCP).
This program is focused for capacity building of Customs and other relevant law enforcement agencies to focus on sea-freight containers which are illicitly being used for transportation of drugs, precursor chemicals, dual use and strategic goods in the garb of legitimate cargo, or by using legitimate cargo as cover load.
The UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme was initiated at the port of Guayaquil in Ecuador (South America) and afterwards Ghana, Cape Verde and Pakistan were amongst the first four countries across the globe to join the CCP Pilot Phase in 2007. During the pilot phase the Programme started at the Port of Karachi and Port Muhammad Bin Qasim.
FBR decided that MCC Preventive having the requisite mandate of enforcement and historical experience of enforcement shall carry out the task and Collector MCC Preventive was notified as the Project Director for the Programme. Since its inception in Pakistan the CCP produced tremendous results which speak very loud of themselves and got appreciation not only at the national but at international level.
After successful completion of Pilot phase at Karachi CCP was extended at the following Dryports and Land Border Stations of Pakistan;
- Karachi Port (NMB Wharf)
- Port Muhammad Bin Qasim (DP World Terminal)
- Multan Dryport
- Railway Dryport Moghulpura Lahore
- Sambrial, Sialkot Dryport Trust
- Faisalabad Dryport Trust
- Margalla Railway Dryport Islamabad
- Sost (Pak-China Border) Gilgit Baltistan
- Torkham (Pak-Afghanistan) MCC Peshawar
International best customs practices suggest 2% examination of cargo and automation of its processes for the facilitation of trade. Today’s market is challenging in terms of time and everyone across the globe is desirous of having their cargo at their doorsteps in the least possible time and through very efficient systems.
This creates a lot of pressure on all customs administrations. Pakistan Customs, as a dynamic organization has taken up the challenge and evolved a dynamic electronic clearance system of its own. The inbuilt and robust RMS of the system facilitates the trade by minimizing the dwell time of cargo at the seaports, dryports and air freight units.
Port Control Units established under the UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme are focused on the challenges being faced by the country. As part of CCP a joint initiative has been taken up by the World Customs Organization in collaboration with Interpol and Programme Global Shield has been initiated. Programme Global Shield is focused on thirteen such chemicals which have been globally identified as precursors for IEDs.
These IEDs pose a great threat to the security within Country but being dual use commodities all these thirteen chemicals are widely available in the market and there was no mechanism to monitor the end use of these chemicals.
In order to take up the challenge Sub Section 1(A) under Section 26 of the Customs Act has been introduced where the Board or any officer authorized in this behalf may require any person to provide such information as is held by that person which is required for the purposes of End Use Verification of goods specified under Program Global Shield. This is a giant leap towards securing the international trade chain and strengthening the internal security of the country.
In addition to above, the project of Security Improvement of Karachi Port and Port Muhammad Bin Qasim where the Government of Japan through its implementing agency JICA which has funded for the installation of three static gantry type container scanners.
These scanners are of great assistance in conducting Non- Intrusive Inspections of Sea Freight Containers, either in exports, imports, transit or transshipment. Moreover, Asian Development Bank has also funded a multi-billion dollar project in creating a coordinated border management system under the title of ITTMS (Integrated Transit Trade Management Systems).
This ITTMS Project is being built at three border stations of Pakistan i.e. Torkham, Chaman (both linking Pakistan with Afghanistan) and Wahgah (linking Pakistan with India). These border stations will provide an international standard coordinated border management for all stakeholders to not just facilitate the trade but also protect its borders from any unwanted and untoward incident by having clear and transparent speedy clearance systems.
The key to success is by maintaining the balance of a thin line in between facilitation and enforcement which Pakistan Customs will achieve through these projects.
Pakistan is also signatory to UN Security Council Resolution 1540 besides many others resolutions of similar nature putting various embargoes on Libya, North Korea, Cote d’Ivoire, Al Qaeda and many others.
Pakistan Customs through these Port Control Units is also enforcing the implementation of all these UN Security Council Resolutions, thus making this globe secure from international terrorist organizations, entities and individuals.
During the year 2016, Pakistan Customs seized 21.7 Metric Tons of Acetic Anhydride which is one of the precursors amongst the 14 listed chemicals of IEDs. This is by far the biggest ever quantity of Acetic Anhydride seized by any Customs Administration at any Customs Border Point.
In the follow-up of this seizure MCC Appraisement West also seized a sizeable quantity of Acetic Anhydride as well, as such during 2016 Pakistan Customs was able to seize more than 26 Tons of Acetic Anhydride.
In case this attempt to smuggle such a huge cache of Acetic Anhydride would have reached the illicit market it could have been able to assist in the production of more than 52 tons of Heroin and/or in the manufacture of numerous IEDs which could have done a fatal loss to so many innocent lives.
Pakistan is also the first country around the globe to extend this Container Control Programme to the air cargo side by creating ACCU (Air Cargo Control Unit) with the assistance of UNODC and WCO.
The above glimpse of Pakistan efforts gives a very vivid picture about the commitment and zeal of Pakistan Customs towards creating a secure business environment for economic development locally and globally. We are not only the guardians of economic borders of Pakistan but we are also contributing towards the peace and stability of the international community and trade in particular.
The Customs Port Unit Headquarters during the month of June 2020 gathered intelligence to the effect that an attempt to smuggle a huge quantity of Acetic Anhydride will be made for smuggling it further to Afghanistan for its illegitimate and illicit use in the production of Heroin.
Though the prevailing COVID-19 situation delayed this movement with Acetic Anhydride from China in the garb of “Liquid Laundry”.
Container number HDMU2502150 declared to contain “789 Cartons Liquid Laundry arrived on 18th June, 2020. The shipment was seized during the high period when the pandemic was on the rise and the seizing officer himself was suffering from COVID-19 but in order to execute and tactfully conduct the operation he came out of the quarantine and proceeded with the seizure of 3.2 M. Tons of Acetic Anhydride.
On 14th September, 2020, acting upon the intelligence shared by the Port Control Unit of Pakistan Customs, the UNODC CCP Team in coordination with the US DEA agents conducted a joint-operation inside Afghanistan and seized 6 M.Tons of Iodine.
The significance and global implications of this historic seizure can be made from the observations of the International Narcotics Board, which has estimated that the seized Iodine could have potentially produced 4.5 Metric Tons of Methamphetamine, which according to UNODC survey reports has an international market value of 91.670 Billion Pak Rupees, which has suspicious linkages with terror financing.
The current pandemic situation caused by COVID-19 has profoundly changed the reality of everyone, everywhere. People and organizations around the globe have experienced the shock of being locked down and the distress of uncertainty of what lies ahead. Customs Administrations across the world have not been spared from this situation.
As a result, Human Resource professionals in Customs are navigating unknown waters and they have to reconcile staff’s safety and security with keeping vital trade flowing for economic prosperity. The crisis has illustrated that the people within the Customs administration – the Customs officers – are its greatest asset. They are the driving force behind the operations and processes.
Therefore, more than ever before Customs HR professionals, are being called upon to completely change their operating model while being agile in order to support an appropriate and innovative response to this crisis.
During the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pakistan Customs continued to focus on delivering vital assistance to the trade by virtually facilitating the business processes and avoiding man to man contact.
The revenue collections despite the Pandemic, is on the rise since the trade and business community was provided a very conducive environment for conducting their day to day affairs by adopting a proactive and innovative approach based on virtual capacity building and technical assistance.
The support provided by the FBR to its field formations, and especially to executive and professional Customs HR personnel, enabled them to effectively respond to the current crisis and potential future crises.
THE EVER AWAKE CUSTOMS FIGHTERS
The World Customs Organization (WCO), established in 1952, represents 183 Customs administrations across the globe that collectively process approximately 98% of world trade.
All member countries of WCO celebrate International Customs day on 26th January every year with a slogan to commemorate the day. The WCO theme for this year is “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain”.
The year 2020, witnessed one of the worst pandemics this world has ever seen. COVID 19 has not just graved people’s lives but also jeopardized the ongoing businesses and trade of the world.
Trade through the sea experienced most critical times. The sea freight containers were stuck at different ports of the world.
Like many member countries of SCO to facilitate the Cross-border Movement of Relief and Essential Supplies, the Government of Pakistan waived all duties and taxes on the import of essential medicines and equipment necessary for containing and combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pakistan also initiated 24/7 clearance of cargo at ports/airports and land borders stations, while ensuring expeditious clearance of medicines, food items, and equipment pertaining to treatment of COVID-19. Dedicated e-mail address was notified as a single contact facility to accommodate all trade related queries/grievances for redressal by the Customs authorities.
For Supporting the Economy and Sustaining Supply Chain Continuity, Pakistan Customs extended the period for filling for goods declarations.
The Pakistan Customs authorities were provided with an extra budget to protect the staff against the COVID-19 pandemic by the provision of masks, sanitizers and other essentials as instructed by the local health authorities. Screening and sanitizing facilities were made available at all the work places and staff above the age of 50 and those suffering from any underlying health conditions were relieved from physical appearance at the offices.
To ensure the spread of virus in all the offices (including field formations), plasma antibiotic tests were also conducted twice. In addition, the scope of meetings was also restricted to WEB conferences.
Following all the COVID-19 protocol, the Port Control Unit of MCC of Enforcement and compliance kept the vigilance to curb illicit trade of Drugs and Drug precursors.
In doing so, PCU seized 3.2 MTons of Acetic Anhydride, which is precursor for the manufacturing of Heroine, in the month of July, 2020. The cans of Acetic Anhydride were clandestinely packed in cans with labels of Laundry Liquid Soap. The estimated international value of the seized Acetic Anhydride is safely around 215,712,000/- Pak Rupees.
Later, in the month of September, 2020, Iodine was identified in the Transit Trade destined for Afghanistan. Iodine is a US DEA controlled list item. The 6 MTons of Iodine, which is used in manufacturing of Methamphetamine, was seized by the UNODC CCP Team and the US DEA agents in Afghanistan.
The International Narcotics Board also informed that the seized Iodine could have potentially produced 4.5 Metric Tons of Methamphetamine which according to UNODC survey reports has an international market value of 91.670 Billion Pak Rupees.
This unprecedented and remarkable exercise resulted in stopping the illicit flow of Millions of US Dollars from going into the hands and ultimate funding of terrorists organizations operating thereof.