Pakistan Customs Border Management Initiative (BMI), approved by Prime Minister Imran Khan, would give a boost to the anti-smuggling capabilities of Pakistan Customs with enhancement of human resources and provision of equipment/ logistics.

Sources told Business Recorder that Pakistan shares long and porous borders with Afghanistan and Iran where there is nominal presence of Customs officials and the border is mainly manned by other law enforcement agencies (LEAs). These borders on account of their mountainous and hilly terrain coupled with volatile law and order situation in the region have made the efforts for curbing smuggling difficult.

The enforcement problem is further compounded due to the fact there are long stretches of borders where Pakistan Customs has no presence. Therefore, the FBR vide SRO 1090(1)/2010 dated 01.12.2010, has entrusted anti-smuggling powers of Customs to Pakistan Rangers (Sindh/Punjab) and FC (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including Fata) to carry out anti-smuggling operations within 20 kilometres of the international border. These anti-smuggling powers of Customs have also been given to Pakistan Coast Guards vide SRO No.42(I)/2014 and Pakistan Maritime Security Agency vide SRO No. 43(l)/2014 dated 20.01.2014 to check smuggling in the coastal areas/ high seas.

Both the Pak-Afghan & Pak-Iran borders are guarded by Frontier Corps Balochistan (North & South), Frontier Corps KP (North & South), Federal/ Provincial Levies, Coast Guards and Maritime Security Agency. Pakistan Customs is currently deployed along these borders only at notified customs-stations at Torkhum, Kharlachi (Kurram agency) and Ghulam Khan (North Waziristan) in KP, Cham an, Taftan, Mashkhel, Chedgee (Panjgur), Redeeq (Mand) and Gabd (Gwadar) in Baluchistan. Customs mostly focuses on processing of bilateral legal trade on these borders with very limited anti-smuggling enforcement activity due to insufficient resources. The total strength of all the Customs Collectorates having jurisdiction in the entire provinces of Balochistan, KPK (including erstwhile FATA) covering borders with Iran and Afghanistan as well as the entire coastal bell in Balochistan is only 1,650 personnel (MCC Pcshawar-900, MCC Quetta, 600 and MCC Gwadar 150). In comparison, the strength of FC personal only deployed in Balochistan along the international borders is about 30,000. Due to inefficient operational strength of Pakistan Customs, most of the inland routes leading to Sindh and Punjab from KP and Balochistan are also poorly guarded. However Pakistan Customs prepared a proposal under the name of Border Management Initiative (BMI) which includes enhancement of human resource as well as provision of equipment/logistics which has been approved by the Prime Minister during the recent presentation made by the Anti-smuggling Steering Committee. Once implemented, the BMI will give a tremendous boost to the anti-smuggling capabilities of Pakistan Customs.

Despite limited resources, Pakistan Customs is the leading agency in curbing smuggling based on the number and quantity of seizure of various types of smuggled goods across Pakistan as evident. It seized smuggled goods worth Rs 32.291 billion during 2018-19.

In order to effectively address the menace of smuggling including LED TVs and other electronic items, Pakistan Customs has enhanced its enforcement measures by adopting stern measures which resulted in seizure of various electronic items including LED TVs registering an increase of 40 percent during 2018-19 when compared with previous financial year. The statistics of seizures of electronics items including LED TVs for the past ten years revealed that the customs has seized goods worth Rs 66.14 million reflecting a growth of 150 percent.

The ongoing momentum of countrywide enforcement operations against smuggling of goods including LED TVs is in full swing and no effort shall be spared to curb this menace. Moreover, Pakistan Customs has specifically sensitized its preventive formation regarding the phenomenon of smuggling of LED TVs with the direction to gear up measures for seizure of the same.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019