ISLAMABAD-Senate standing committee on commerce on Tuesday has expressed satisfaction over the decline in smuggling by saying it would support the local industry of the country. The committee, which met under the chair of Senator Mirza Muhammad Afridi, has noted that smuggling has controlled due to the measures taken by the government. It said that reduction in smuggling would help in enhancing economic activities in the country. Committee chairman said that, it is vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan to promote the local industry of the country, which would help in stabilising the overall economy. Mirza Muhammad Afridi appreciated the measures taken in this regard and said that the sick units need to be facilitated to ensure their revival.

The Committee was apprised about the problems faced by the farmers due to inadequate prices of tomato, onion despite good production during the current season. Senator Mir Kabir has raised the issue of lower prices of fruits and vegetables in Balochistan province. He said that due to import of fruits and vegetables from other countries, the farmers of Balochistan provinces are suffering huge financial losses. He asked the ministry of commerce to resolve the issue. Other members of the committee have also supported Mir Kabir and demanded that government should protect the local production. Senator Kabir said that government should first use the local production instead of importing from other countries. Later, Secretary Commerce assured the committee that they would resolve the issue with ministry of National Food Security and Research and would inform the committee. The Committee was also briefed about the steps being taken for exploring new markets for dates, tax evasion on computer, laptops and other IT equipments, as well as the issues of under invoicing. The Chairman and members of the Committee said that the basic purpose is to protect the local industry and its production for overall progress of the country.

Senator Dilawar Hussain while talking about Afghan Transit Trade said that due to the deficiency of trackers, there is a huge pressure on transit points. He asserted that appropriate solution to this should be sorted out. Chairman of the Committee Senator Mirza Afridi said that trade is a backbone of the national economy and an appropriate strategy should be followed to promote business activities in the country. Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razzak Dawod apprised the Committee that State Bank have been approached for provision of easy loan through Small and Medium Industries and consultation process for the IT sector is in progress, which will bear positive results. Secretary Commerce informed the Committee that, E-Commerce policy has been introduced and the Committee in its next meeting will be informed about a framework in this regard. Chairman of the Committee appreciated these measures, however, he emphasised that sick units need to be supported so as to cater for the local requirements and as well as the export oriented from such units. Senator Dilawar Khan informed the Committee that Trade and Development Authority (TDAP) could not hold even a single meeting so far.

 He further informed that he had sought different details from TDAP which have not been provided yet.  Senator Mirza Afridi said that TDAP is an important organisation, its board should hold regular meetings to proceed on different issues and the people of Pakistan should have access to information.  He further said that question has been raised about Trade and Commercial Attaché posted in different countries.

He said that Pakistan produces a good quality tobacco. Trade and Commercial Attaché should improve their efficiency and awareness must be created about Pakistan products in foreign countries. The Committee insisted on provision of facilities and capacity building of the tobacco farmers in Mardan, Charsada and Swabi districts. Committee was further informed that a project in collaboration with Swabi University has moved ahead. Senator Dilawar Khan emphasised that all the stake holders must be taken into confidence as quality tobacco of the country is produced in these areas and national exchequer gets taxes of worth billions of rupees. About the export of the dates, the Committee was informed that 70 per cent of dry dates were exported to India and due to suspension of trade with India, farmers have to face huge losses. 

However, efforts are being made to explore alternative markets for export of the dates and different countries have been contacted in this regard. Chairman Committee emphasized that these efforts must be expedited to avoid losses to the farmers. Senator Rana Mehmood ul Hassan suggested that a policy for installation of small sugar mills should be introduced to promote compatibility in the market. Secretary Commerce informed the committee that such proposal is already under consideration in different ministries. The Committee was also apprised about clearance of containers at Port Qasim as well as money laundering issues in the country.