ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on Monday kicked off a major drive against 195 illegal petrol retail outlets in three provinces on the first day of launching of anti-smuggling operations.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has given a deadline of four weeks to the Customs Department and other law enforcement agencies to take action against 2,094 illegal petrol retail outlets in three provinces and seized smuggling routes of petroleum products at the border stations across Balochistan.

The Customs Department also detained petrol and high-speed diesel being sold at these illegal outlets. The FBR has also issued instructions to the customs department Balochistan to seal six supply routes of smuggled oil in the province.

On Monday, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa being first took action against 80 illegal outlets against a total of 343 identified in the province. The Customs Department will now give one week’s time to the owner to produce the relevant documents.

In case of failure to produce relevant documents, the outlets will be seized and cases for confiscation and filing of the FIR will be initiated. This process will be adopted in each case across the country. The customs department has issued very clear and detailed standard operating procedures for the operation and responsibility of all agencies involved.

As per the estimates, the highest numbers of illegal petroleum retail outlets are in Punjab at 1,317. In Punjab, Pakistan Customs, the lead agency for the operation, took action against a total of 29 retail outlets in Lahore. More than 60 per cent of the outlets sealed in the Lahore Division were present in Sheikhupura district and the Nankana Sahab district.

Similarly, a total of 44 illegal retail outlets were sealed across the Sargodha, Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Multan, DG Khan and Bahawalpur divisions.

The Multan division alone saw action against 12 retail outlets. In the Rawalpindi division five unauthorized retail outlets were sealed. Likewise, a total of 11 illegal retail outlets were sealed in the Gujranwala division.

In Sindh the total number of illegal petrol outlets identified estimated at 336. On the first day of the operation, action was initiated against only nine retail outlets in Sindh. Similarly, in Islamabad action was taken against seven outlets.

In the first phase, all major supply routes used for POL smuggling from Balochistan to the rest of the country will be monitored and choked. The routes identified for extensive monitoring are Gaddani-Cross, outside Khuzdar on M-8, Kolpur, Rakhni, Manikhawa and Darya Khan Bridge.

The customs officials estimated that loss, due to the illegal selling of petroleum products to the national exchequer, is in the range of Rs100 billion to Rs150bn per annum. The operation will be monitored from the Central Control Room resourced by Pakistan Customs, situated in the Ministry of Interior and Provincial Control Rooms in the offices of chief secretaries of respective provinces.

According to the action plan available with Dawn, the operation against illegal outlets has been divided into two phases. The initial phase will comprise simultaneous action against illegal POL retail outlets in three provinces — Punjab, Sindh, and KP which have already been geo-mapped by customs and choking off supply routes of smuggled POL products from Balochistan to the rest of the country.

The second phase will encompass mapping of requirements of POL products in Balochistan, planning for provision of legal retail outlets to replace the shortfall of smuggled oil and devising a strategy to curb POL smuggling at the international border of Balochistan.

Source: Dawn, January 12th, 2021