ISLAMABAD   -   The committee for recovery of illegal ‘Direct-to-Home’ devices on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that mere enforcement operations could not completely root out smuggling of DTH equipments used for illegal broadcasting of Indian content in Pakistan.

The Committee informed the top court that a holistic strategy was needed to be worked out by all the agencies to address the issue of curbing illegal smuggling of DTH providing Indian content.

The top court in the matter regarding operation of grey traffic in the country had taken serious view on availability of smuggled DTH devices in the market in Pakistan and constituted a committee for conducting raids to recover such illegal DTHs.  The member customs was also directed to find out the source of such smuggled devices.

The committee comprising member customs of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Additional director general of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) submitted its report in the top court through Additional Attorney General Syed Nayyar Rizvi.

The report also stated that FBR also enhanced enforcement measures which resulted in seizure of goods and contrabands worth Rs25 billion during fiscal year 2017-18 including seizures of DTH equipments worth Rs24.8 million

“Smuggled goods worth Rs11.4 billion have been seized during the first quarter of fiscal year 2018-19,” the report stated, adding that mere enforcement measures would not be sufficient to completely root out the transportation of illegal DTH equipments. It however stated that the process of awarding DTH licenses to successful bidders in the country is in progress.

The committee also proposed measures for curbing Indian content. It said that enforcement operations might continue in coordination with all the 3 departments. The better way to address the issue of smuggling is to ensure that flow of smuggled goods is intercepted at the borders, it added.

“For this to materialise, a dedicated custom border force is proposed to be raised to encounter/interdict the smuggled goods at the borders from entering into the territory of Pakistan.”

The FC authorities may also be engaged through ministry of Interior to keep strict vigilance on borders, the Committee suggested.

PEMRA has suggested a technological solution that can effectively disrupt reception and re-broadcast of Indian content using smuggled DTH equipment or those imported through regular channels after modifications by the local vendors.

“In the absence of local DTH services, subscribers are opting for other illegal means which include Indian DTH services. In order to incentivise the local operation for setting up of their facilities, the PEMRA has also proposed to grant concessions from duty and taxes for import of equipment and other accessories.”

The FIA authorities have also stepped up efforts to dismantle modalities through which money charged from the subscribers in Pakistan is being siphoned out to India through UAE and other countries.

Initially, the service providers in Pakistan get paid subscription from India against Rs8,000 to Rs10,000 for each connection and then further re-distribute hundreds of connections to their clients by charging key or code to unscramble the channel.

The key code is shared by the overseas service providers through internet with hardly any cost while Indian content signals for channels are received directly from satellites.

The local seller collects charges from end users through services like easy paisa, scratch cards or in case and transfers such funds charged against subscription to the foreign companies using credit cards or ‘hundi/hawala’.

The enforcement problem is further compounded due to the fact that there are long stretches of borders where Pakistan Customs have no presence and other law enforcement agencies encounter significant difficulties while operating in such areas.  The joint enforcement operations were successfully conducted across the country and substantive quantity of smuggled DTH equipments is recovered in the operations.

The Model Customs Collectorate (MCC) in coordination with the officials of PEMRA and FIA raided different areas of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Kamra and Taxila and seized substantive quantity of illegal DTH equipment worth Rs3.5 million in these operations.

MCC (Preventive) Karachi recovered DTH equipment and other related goods worth Rs14.3 million and two persons have been arrested.

MCC (Preventive) Lahore launched a crackdown at different locations of Sheikhpura, Kasur, Okara and Lahore and seized equipment worth Rs9.3 million while 7 persons were arrested for involvement in the business.

MCC Peshawar during raids in different markets including Karkhano Market seized DTH equipment worth Rs45 million. One FIR is lodged but the accused person is absconder. MCC Quetta also conducted raids and recovered equipment valuing Rs1.74 million, the report stated.

“The enforcement operations against the illegal DTH equipments led by Customs in coordination with the PEMRA and FIA authorities have been successful and as a result, huge quantity of smuggled DTH equipment worth Rs78.3 million has been seized from the local markets”, it said.

It further stated that 30 FIRs had been lodged and 39 persons had also been arrested both by Customs and FIA authorities for further investigations.

The consequences of raids are that availability of smuggled DTH equipment has almost disappeared from the local markets, the report stated.