KHYBER AGENCY: Currency smuggling is rampant at Pak-Afghan border since long due to lack of restrictive measures and involvement of border security officials causing loss of millions in foreign exchange to the national exchequer monthly. A Khyber Agency political administration official seeking anonymity said the foreign currency including US dollars, Saudi Riyal, Kuwaiti Dinar and Euro is being smuggled freely from Pakistan to Afghanistan.

Providing details, the money exchangers said that currency dealers in Peshawar were smuggling currency of various countries to Afghanistan in case when dollar rate was high there and when they (money exchangers) needed telegraphic transfer (TT) which was banned in Pakistan. After imposition of ban on TT by the government, the illegal business thrived in Afghanistan, they added. Requesting anonymity, one of the local smugglers said, “I took around 3 million US dollars with me from Peshawar to Afghanistan via Torkham border in last six months.” “I used to smuggle dollars via Torkham border on total rent of Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 Pakistani rupees per trip when dollar rate was high in Afghanistan,” he said.

“Interestingly I was caught red-handedly once by security officials deployed on Torkham border but I bribed him only Rs 1,000 and I was permitted to enter neighbouring country. I used to stick dollars at my body and cross the bordering area,” he disclosed. It is to be mentioned that agents were carrying currencies through Pak-Afghan transit trade at large scale by concealing it in various cavities, claimed money smugglers adding, officials of Frontier Corps (FC) and local Khasadar Force (tribal police men) were well aware of these things but they received bribes from agents for their own benefits.

General Secretary of Sarafa (money exchangers) Association at Chowk Yadgar in Peshawar, Shakil Ahmad Khan criticised the currency smuggling and said the prime responsibility of the government institutions was to stop that forthwith. The currency agents said 200 money exchangers were operating their business in Peshawar from Afghanistan. They revealed that money exchangers from Afghanistan were involved in currency smuggling and accused political administration and security officials posted at bordering area of taking bribes.

Former president of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KPCCI) Zahid Shinwari, while commenting on the matter, said the currency smuggling was a serious issue and massive blow for economy of the country and that could be stopped after streamlining the bordering activities. Currency smuggling was a parallel business with the legal economy, he said. He further said that government should soften its policies regarding money transfer so that smugglers have less charm to take currency to Afghanistan illegally. An Assistant Collector Customs at Torkham said as a challenging task it was their responsibility to intercept the currency being smuggled via Torkham border. Each day around 1,000 to 1,300 trailers loaded with goods enter into neighbouring country and it is impossible for customs officials to check each and every vehicle transporting goods to Afghanistan from parts of Pakistan, he opined.

He further added, at least 10,000 to 13,000 people from Afghanistan make entries and exits on daily basis via Torkham border and to check each and everybody was almost impossible for all departments but the currencies could be searched and recovered, he informed. A senior security official at Torkham border said until and unless they do not get any tip-off about smuggling of currency, it was a tough task to stop it. “We are taking concrete steps at bordering area after militant’s attack on Army Public School in Peshawar to have close check on movements of people making entries and exits,” he claimed.

“We handed over currency to customs officials after recovering it from agents involved in currency smuggling ,” official stated. Political administration official of Khyber Agency while sharing statistics said that 17,36,753 US dollars had been seized from July to October 2015 while 14,00,000 Saudi Riyal, 10,00,000 Afghani currency and some others had been confiscated from currency smugglers. He clearly said that it was a non-stop process and administration officials were striving hard to halt it. Anti Money Laundering Act, 2010 had been formulated to curb currency smuggling practice, however implementation of the act in true spirit was inevitable for the stable economy, various business communities demanded.