LAHORE  - FIA and Customs authorities have been locking horns over their part in stopping smuggling, TheNation has learnt.

The Federal Investigation Agency has started swoop on spurious drugs and other smuggled goods and tried to grill some Customs Officers after blaming them for supporting smugglers. However, the Customs department claimed that the FIA director was unauthorised to check smuggling on roads as these powers had been withheld in the past through an SRO.

A letter written by a Customs Deputy Collector to FIA Assistant Director reads: “It has come to the notice of this office that you, while assuming the powers of a Police Officer, have seized certain smuggled and non-duty paid goods under the provisions of the Customs Act, 1969. The Federal Board of Revenue, under Section 6 of the Customs Act, 1969, had passé don powers under various sections of the Act ibid to certain officers of Police vide notification No SRO 913(1)/86 dated 05.10.1986. However, the aforesaid notification was rescinded vide SRO 766(1)/2005 dated 30.07.2005. Therefore, the officers of Police are no more authorised to act as an officer of Customs. In view of the above legal prospect, you are advised to deposit the seized goods at Customs State Warehouse of MCC (Preventive), Lahore for initiating further proceedings under the provisions of the Customs Act, 1969 by the appropriate officer of Customs.”

The letter adds: “It has also come to the knowledge that you have summoned Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent Anti Smuggling Office (ASO) of this Collectorate to join investigation. Your aforesaid act is barred by jurisdiction in terms of sub-section (1) of Section 217 of the Customs Act, 1969. You may, therefore, refer this matter along with supportive documents/evidence to seek prior approval of the Federal Board of Revenue before summoning any officer or official of Customs for the purpose of any investigation or inquiry."

Earlier, FIA Director Dr Usman Anwar wrote to Customs Deputy Collector, saying: “It is intimated that Customs Act has promulgated in 1969, while the FIA Act was promulgated in 1974, therefore, if any ambiguity arise then the FIA Act, shall prevail due to its enactment. This has been clearly described in Supreme Court judgment, such follows in this letter. That according to section 3 (sub section 1) of FIA Act 1974, is competent to enquire in to the matter and investigation of the offences specified in its schedule, offence punishable under Customs Act falls in the schedule of FIA, similarly as per section 5 of FIA Act 1974, a member of the Agency who is not below the rank of Sub Inspector (SI) has power throughout Pakistan the powers to search, arrest of the persons and seizure of property. Thus, your version narrated in the above said letter is totally irrelevant and FIA has the authority to take cognizance and it is also worth mentioning here, the Honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan in Civil Petition No 2138-L of 1998 decided on 1-6-1999 titled as Khalid Mehmood vis Collector of Customs, Customs House, Lahore has clearly given verdict in para #3 of this petition.”

He added: “Similarly, the Honorable Lahore High Court Lahore in Imran Nawaz case (Gold Smuggling Case) has also confirmed the power of FlA. Recently the Honorable High Court Sindh at Karachi, the case titled on Mumtazuddin v/s State judgment dated: 03.10.2014 has also confirmed the power of FlA.”

The letter further says, “In addition to above, copy of other judgments, mentioned already may be obtained from the undersigned, if required by your office. It is therefore required that necessary assistance may kindly be provided by your good office so that smuggling can be eradicated by law enforcing agencies”.