LAHORE - Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar has expressed the hope that a team of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will remove Pakistan’s name from the gray list during its next visit to Islamabad as the government and departments concerned are working hard to meet the FATF requirements.

He expressed these views while talking to reporters after addressing a ceremony at Wagah border in connection with World Customs Day on Saturday. Terming smuggling a menace for business, the minister pledged to make Pakistan a smuggling-free country.

Earlier, he was addressing a ceremony as chief guest where Customs (Central) Chief Collector Zeba Hai Azhar, Collector Nasir Jameel, Collector Faiz Chadar and number of senior customs officers also attended the ceremony.

The minister in his address said that smuggling is a disease for businesses and being part of business family he had witnessed how smuggled goods destroyed different businesses and created unemployment for thousands. He said that mobile smuggling was causing a loss of Rs50 billion to national kitty and out of the box measures were required to curb mobile smuggling.

“Pak-Iran and Pak-Afghan borders are being fenced by the Pakistan military. With upgrade of anti-smuggling force, we will eliminate smuggling,” he added. He said he and his team would strive to make Pakistan a smuggling-free country and in near future results of firm policies against smuggling will start showing. He said that an integrated system based on reformed customs intelligence is need of hour.

He said the existing system of customs is satisfactory but it could function more properly after some upgrades. He said that he has learnt that on the Afghan border a single vehicle of customs patrols hundreds of miles. “I have shared this situation with the prime minister and he has assured to beef up customs staff on borders and recruitment for the force will be made on merit,” he said.

Customs (Central) Chief Collector Zeba Hai Azhar addressed the ceremony and said that Customs revenues have increased by 34 percent as compared to previous fiscal year. She appreciated customs staff working in central region for their performance and later distributed certificates to business community and custom officials.

World Customs Organization (WCO) celebrates January 26 as International Customs Day in order to emphasize Custom’s pivotal role in securing borders for trade facilitation.

The theme of 2019 Customs Day is “swift and smooth cross-border movement of goods, people and means of transport” with the slogan “SMART Borders for Seamless Trade, Travel and Transport.

At the event more than 6000 smuggled liquor bottles were crushed and other contraband were set on fire in the presence of customs officials and media men.