US dollars, wheat and urea smuggled to Afghanistan bleeding Pak forex reserves

The Pakistan government has decided to launch a crackdown on those who are playing any role in facilitating multi-billion dollar smuggling from Pakistan into Afghanistan in the shape of illegal currency, wheat and urea, and all those items on which the Regulatory Duty is imposed by the government in Islamabad.

The government has firmed up its numbers of currency smuggling from Pakistan into Afghanistan and now intelligence agencies, including the ISI, the FIA and the Customs Intelligence, have been directed to come up with a roadmap next week for launching stern action against the smugglers, The News reported.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had assigned Special Assistant to PM on Revenues Tariq Pasha to ascertain figures of dollar, wheat and urea smuggling into Afghanistan through Peshawar and bordering areas.

Now Pasha has come up with a whopping figure worth billions of dollars (at least in the range of over $1billion to $2 billion) on the basis of different scenarios as this kind of haemorrhage needs to be curtailed.

Pasha disguised himself and visited currency markets in Peshawar to ascertain methods for firming up figures on smuggling from

Pakistan.

Although government officials are tight-lipped, one told this scribe that the whole figure ran into multi-billion dollars and added in the same breath that the government did not share any figure during official meetings. It’s ironic that the government utilized hard-earned dollars on the import of wheat and gave subsidy on urea, but they were being smuggled into Afghanistan, The News reported.

During the meetings, it was highlighted that the misuse of Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) continued as all those items on which Islamabad slapped Regulatory Duty were being brought in the guise of ATT.

Pakistan has been giving proposals to Afghanistan for the collection of duty and taxes at the Karachi port, but the Afghan side was not agreeing to any such proposals. All other proposals failed to deliver because most of these products were smuggled back into Pakistan in abundance. The meetings also discussed possibilities for strengthening laws to penalize smugglers causing heavy losses to the national exchequer.

Despite official foreign currency reserves falling to a critically low level of $6.7 billion, the government has failed to stop the smuggling of the dollars to Afghanistan that was underway using orange crates and with the connivance of law enforcement agencies (LEAs), revealed the proceedings of a huddle held on Friday, The Express Tribune reported.

It also emerged during a meeting that the Customs Act was not in conformity with the new limits set for outbound currency flow, hampering the registration of criminal cases against the smugglers.

The heads of the LEAs were called by Finance Minister Dar to Q-Block in the Pakistan Secretariat amid the state’s failure to guard its borders and international airports that have been turned into dens of smuggling, Express Tribune reported.

Dar chaired an inter-ministerial huddle to review as to why the LEAs had failed to stop the smuggling of the US currency, imported wheat and fertiliser to Afghanistan.

It emerged during the meeting that US dollars were being smuggled to Afghanistan through orange crates.

The government officials disclosed that disabled persons and the personnel of the LEAs were also involved in currency smuggling to Afghanistan, Express Tribune reported.

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