ISLAMABAD  -    The Anti-Smuggling Steering Committee of the federal government met here on Monday with Interior Minister Brigadier (r) Ijaz Ahmad Shah in the chair.

The committee decided to frame a new policy and form a task force to curb the menace of smuggling in the country. The committee that was constituted on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan, in its second meeting in less than a month, also decided that a comprehensive action plan on anti-smuggling would be submitted to the premier within a week.

The meeting that was held at the Ministry of Interior and was attended by police chiefs of four provinces besides other senior officers decided that Customs Department would increase its coordination with border management  forces and other departments.

It was also decided at the meeting to install modern equipment in the border areas to increase surveillance of smugglers.

The four chief secretaries were asked to submit their suggestions to curb smuggling, said a statement issued by the Interior Ministry.

The interior minister expressed surprise over the fact that successive governments failed to recognise smuggling as an issue for seventy years despite massive losses to the economy of the country.

The maritime affairs minister, who co-chaired the meeting, said that smuggling through sea was causing losses of billions of dollars to the export of fish and other seafood. 

The interior secretary gave a detailed briefing on coordination between Customs, civil armed forces and the other law-enforcement agencies. He also gave a proposal for the digitization of data relating to trade and smuggling.  The commerce secretary highlighted anomalies in the system of tariffs and the steps required to regulate Afghan Transit Trade. 

The secretary law and justice on the occasion recommended amending various Acts to make crackdown on smuggling more effective. The secretary maritime affairs spoke about the quantum of smuggling through sea and gave suggestions to effectively control the menace.

He stressed the need for collaboration between provincial and federal governments’ agencies and installation of vessel monitoring system on boats, ships so that the export of fish and other seafood could be increased to $1billion.

The committee was constituted on July 1 on the orders of PM with interior minister as its convener, minister for maritime affairs as its co-convener and interior secretary as member and secretary of the committee.

The federal secretaries of commerce, narcotics control, national food security & research, maritime affairs and law & justice ministries are also members of the committee.

The first meeting of Anti-Smuggling Steering Committee was held on 10th of this month. The meeting had formed four sub-committees with clearly defined TORs as instructed by the prime minister.

One of the sub-committees was formed on trade and industries, tasked with looking after economic development initiatives in the border areas and to be chaired by commerce secretary. Another sub-committee was formed on legal and regulatory framework to be chaired by law secretary. The other two sub-committees were formed on administrative, financial and infrastructure requirements to be chaired by interior secretary and on smuggling through sea to be chaired by secretary maritime affairs.