LAHORE - Indian truck drivers enter into Pakistani territory for trade via Wagha Border virtually unchecked in the absence of a proper immigration process, said sources in the Immigration Department on Tuesday.
The situation is alarming in view of the hostile history between the two neighbours, as unscrupulous elements in the guise of Indian drivers could enter Pakistan any time. Customs and NLC staff handling the immigration process of drivers do not have the necessary wherewithal such as control or watch lists or a database of Indian citizens.
An immigration officer said, “We have repeatedly written to the Ministry of Interior in this regard but in vain.” Trade area, where truckers arrive, is ironically a no-go area for the Immigration authorities and also for some intelligence agencies, he said.
NLC, Customs and Rangers control the trade yard/area called Land Freight Unit (LFU), he added.
The official also cited an instance where an immigration inspector tried to enter the trade area, but the NLC management stopped him.
Immigration authorities are responsible for all type of immigration processes everywhere in the country, on all exit and entry points, except for Wagha, an FIA officer said on condition of anonymity.
He said that at Wagha border, immigration authorities only handle immigration process of Indian Dosti Bus drivers/crew and Samjhota Express train drivers/crew. For some unknown reasons, Indian truck drivers crossing into Pakistani territory are beyond their purview, the official added.
The official also suspected Customs officials’ involvement in corruption due to which they do not allow anyone enter the trade yard.
Previously, he said, the Customs authorities had invited Immigration staff to take up the immigration process of Indian truck drivers, but the Assistant Director Immigration posted at Wagha border refused to facilitate the process. Since then, Customs and NLC have taken it in their hands.
The layout plan of NLC yard shows offices for the immigration staff were part of it, but now there was no space for their offices. When Indian truck drivers enter Pakistan, three copies of travel permits are issued to them by the Pakistan Customs authorities after examining their identity and driving licenses. The drivers use one copy at the time of exit from Pakistan, hand over second one to Indian immigration, while the third one, after affixing stamp by Indian immigration authorities, is handed back to the truck drivers.
While exiting, as Pakistan Customs retain their one copy, Pakistan Rangers record their particulars such as names, truck numbers, goods type, weight, etc. When the truck drivers reach the Indian territory, Indian BSF registers almost the same details before trucks could move to Indian Customs department where customs and immigration affairs are dealt with.
A Pakistani immigration officer, seeking anonymity, said that he talked to one of the Indian immigration officers who told him, “We have access to all customs data for travel permits, we feed truck drivers license numbers in passport column and feed all other particulars treating them as normal passengers.” The Immigration officer further said that Indian immigration staff also examines Pakistani truck drivers’ CNIC and vehicles license. After unloading goods, exit stamp is affixed and Indian immigration hands over this permit to Indian Customs so that the driver may cross border. Second copy of the permit is kept with immigration while third one is handed over to Pakistani truck drivers. When the Pakistani drivers return, Pakistani Customs authorities receive the third copy of the permit and keep it as record but it is not entered into any system.
On the other hand, when Indian truck drivers enter Pakistan, Rangers manually enter their particulars in a register at the gate and afterwards they approach Pakistan Customs for immigration clearance. No database exists with customs to check their documents and Indian drivers are given entry without any proper immigration process. There is no role of FIA immigration or intelligence agencies to scrutinise the truck drivers, reads a letter written to Ministry Interior by FIA.