Smuggling – rising up to a challenge

Smuggling – rising up to a challenge

QUETTA, Oct 22 (APP): Neither exports amplified significantly not dollar inflow strengthened massively, yet we see some visible signs of economic improvement with exchange rate coming down, stock market showing upward trends and commodities prices stabilizing.

Simply seeing the course of events, there was not any rocket science behind this improvement only except the nationalist sentiment, firm commitment, strong resolve and proactive approach of the state.

These were just a couple of steps the caretaker government and the security institutions embarked on to successfully control the menace of smuggling on border crossings and tightening noose against the smugglers mafia.

Cartels involved in smuggling of fuel, luxurious items and other daily use commodities were smashed through a zero tolerance policy of the State curbing US$ millions on monthly basis cross border illicit trade.

As a result of effective anti-smuggling drive, the exchange rate improved from $315 to $275 rupees per dollar and petrol price decreased to Rs 283 from Rs 330 per liter.

Similarly, with checking the flour and urea fertilizer smuggling to Afghanistan, the price of flour dropped from Rs 10,000 to Rs 7,500 per 40 kg and that of Urea by Rs 500 to Rs 600 per sack.

“The joint venture of the government and security agencies against the cartels continues unabated on all border crossing points,” said Ali Mardan Domki, Caretaker Chief Minister of Balochistan. “Though, it was not an easy task to control smuggling, yet the state’s firm resolve against such mafias helped us take them down with full force.”

“With a loud and clear message of penalizing state officials facilitating smuggling across the board and a policy of no mercy by the Prime Minister and the Army Chief boosted our morals to destroy syndicate vigorously,” the Chief Minister remarked.

Although the provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, bordering Afghanistan had been safe heavens for smugglers, yet the Balochistan province was strategically important sharing 1268 km border with Afghanistan and 909 km border with Iran. Besides, it also has a 760-kilometer-long coastline along the Arabian Sea.

The sparsely populated and largely barren province of Balochistan covering approximately 44 percent of the total Pakistan land area (around 347,190 square kilometers) usually provided land routes to landlocked Afghanistan through Chaman and to Iran via Taftan.

Since only agriculture and livestock were the two main sources of livelihood for majority of Balochistan’s poor populace, many among them were exploited by influential cartels to smuggle vehicles spare parts, blankets, cloth, tyres, cigarettes, chaalia, drugs, sugar, urea, fuel and non-custom paid vehicles through the porous border for decades.

The smuggling with neighboring countries had adversely affected the country’s economy creating a vicious black market with the sources claiming the volume of goods smuggled into Pakistan increasing to 11.25 percent from 3.88 percent in recent years.

“The smuggling was the major contributor to economic downturn in the country as well as Balochistan,” said Information Minister Jan Achakzai. “If the illicit cross border trade caused billions of rupee loss annually to Balochistan, its cumulative impact on national kitty was in trillions.”

He dispelled the impression that lower strata of society was the ultimate beneficiary of smuggling and argued that out of total population only 10000 people were associated to fuel transport activities along Iran border, 5000 to 7000 people at Chaman border and around 6000 people were associated to this business across the border.

“Eighty to ninety percent of illegally earned money directly goes to the cartels and syndicate,” the minister said. “Our stern action has smashed these cartels and we shall continue with it.”

Reiterating government resolve to ensure alternate businesses for poor families who relied on smuggling, the minister said, it was only due to heavy losses to national kitty that a concerted strategy was formulated to tackle smuggling, trafficking and drug addiction.

With the government statistics showing Rs seven billion Afghan reverse transit trade this year against Afghanistan’s total imports of Rs two billion, ten joint check posts have been established in Balochistan jointly manned by NLC, FIA and Customs and Anti-Narcotics departments.

In addition, a Control Room has been established in Quetta to monitor and coordinate anti-smuggling operations. Chief Collector Customs Balochistan supervises the operation while Additional Secretary Home Department, DIG Police, representatives of Balochistan Frontier Constabulary and Intelligence Bureau will monitor operations as members.

A similar control room headed by Commissioner has been established in Makran Division, to amplify anti-smuggling operation in South Balochistan.
There is no denying the fact that crackdown on smugglers in Balochistan had resulted in massive seizures of smuggled goods including 1,637 ton sugar worth Rs one billion that brought down the sugar price from Rs 250 to Rs 160 per kg.

Similarly, through the holistic anti-smuggling campaign the authorities recovered 3400 kg narcotics, the ANF destroyed 3000 kg chemical/ crude ephedrine and 16 narcotics manufacturing installations in couple of weeks besides demolishing 48 drug compounds and wiping out drugs cultivation at 70 acres land.

No doubt it was a right action in right direction but what is direly needed is its continuation to save our economy and people from a total collapse and pave way for a prosperous and healthy society.

APP/ask/maz (APP Feature Service)

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