The government is committed to end smuggling and encourage legal trade with neighbouring countries including Iran and Afghanistan, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Commerce Mirza Khan Afridi said on Monday.

He was addressing a press conference called by the Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industry as movement of trade remained suspended at the Pak-Iran border for the seventh consecutive day following a strike call by the provincial chamber against the Pakistan Customs and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

Senator Afridi said that he had a meeting with QCCI members and customs officials in Quetta and discussed issues faced by the business community in Balo­chistan. “I will take up the issues faced by the business community with the chairman FBR and if needed will approach Prime Minister Imran Khan,” he said.

Senator Afridi acknowledged that the business community was paying huge duties and taxes on import and export to discourage smuggling and boost legal trade in the province. “The annual earning on account of federal excise duty and other taxes has been reached over Rs24 billion from Balochistan,” he said, adding, “Pakistan would progress with enhancing tax collection.”

Meanwhile, QCCI President Ghulam Farooq Khilji bemoaned the attitude of Pakistan Customs and FBR Balochistan officials, alleging that they are discouraging legal trade by seizing legally imported scrap from Iran.

“Despite checking by the Customs Appraiser at the Taftan border and paying all duties and taxes, some of trucks loaded with scrap were stopped at Dalbandin and Nushki by Customs Prevent. The officers claim that the Appraiser wrongly cleared ‘scrap’ which did not come under scrap definition,” he said while challenging the claim of the Customs official.

“The scarp includes 2.5 metre long pieces of steel bars loaded in the trucks along with others scrap materials which would be sent to re-rolling foundries,” Khilji claimed.

He said that around 1600 trucks loaded with import and export goods including scrap are waiting on both sides of the border.

He suggested that a joint team comprising Pakistan Customs and representative of business community should be formed for checking of imported scrap on its arrival at Taftan border.

QCCI Vice-President Badarud­din Kakar and other office-bearers were also present at the press conference.

It is worth noting that this suspension of cross-border trade is causing heavy losses to the national exchequer as well as the business community.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2019