ISLAMABAD - Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan has said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had approved establishment of Customs Authority to curb smuggling of goods, worth billions of rupees taking place on the borders of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa every year.

Addressing a press conference here, she gave details of a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on finalizing a strategy against the menace of smuggling. During the two-hour long meeting attended by representatives of relevant ministries, different measures were considered to stop smuggling and discourage illegal trade through a roadmap and practical steps, she said adding customs check posts in the merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan would be improved.

The strategy to stop smuggling would lead to a new phase of progress and prosperity after 72 years.

This National Anti-Smuggling Strategy had been formulated and approved for the first time in Pakistan.  Smuggling which was damaging the industry, was rampant due to lack of a proper and effective mechanism on borders and different loopholes, she continued.

She said that the first target of the government was to stop the theft, pilferage of revenue and financial loss to the national exchequer.

Firdous says govt’s first target is to stop theft, pilferage of revenue

The total loss incurred due to smuggling every year was in billions and the figures were alarming for a country burdened with debt and inflation which in turn was creating problems for the common man.

Smuggling was one of the causes for shutting down of industries and and loss of jobs. From July 2018 to September 2019, revenue had increased by 56 percent through steps of the federal and provincial governments against smuggling, she told.

She revealed that smuggling of diesel worth Rs105 billion was occurring.

She said under the Customs Authority, coordination would be increased among different agencies including Customs intelligence, Federal Board of Revenue, Federal Investigation Agency, Intelligence Branch and Military Intelligence on the custom check posts on the borders of merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan along with Iran and Afghanistan. 

Presently on the check posts, personnel of different agencies were deployed and there was no coordination among them as they were acting on their own and there was no database and sharing of information, she explained.

The Customs Authority replacing the Customs Directorate would mainstream the trade on borders and build a central database based on the latest technology, automation and best international practices putting an end to corruption and siphoning of money, she added. 

The Customs Department had been made the lead agency for anti smuggling and all other departments were bound to support it.

Earlier, the whole system was manual which caused problems but now the customs posts would be linked through automation for the purposes of security and surveillance.

A Customs’ Border Management Strategy had also been approved to effectively plug smuggling, promote industrialisation and export growth.

The Special Assistant to Prime Minister Dr Firdous said those involved in illegal trade across the borders would be given alternative jobs and economic zones would be established in these areas.

The government would create opportunities for investment by establishing industries which would be exempted from taxes, she said and added trade through these routes was going on for centuries, however, now in order to stop smuggling, citizens would be empowered and given alternative livelihood through a strategy approved by the prime minister.

The youth in these areas would be given vocational training by institutes and their capacity would be built with funding from the annual development plans of provinces while labourers would be sent abroad for jobs. The prime minister would analyse progress of the strategy on smuggling after every quarter.