Big cats import: customs, KMC fail to get permit

KARACHI, Sept 16: While the Pakistan Customs had released the ‘imported’ big cats two months back on an undertaking from the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation that the documents required for bringing the rare species into the country would be submitted soon, neither the documents have been filed nor any punitive action has been taken against the culprits so far, it emerged on Sunday.

For the past couple of months, the two departments have been apparently involved in an unending exercise of issuing notices without any result, yet their officials insisted that they were not going to take any step in haste and were following the procedure.

For the purchase of two white lions and two Bengal tigers, the KMC had given a contract to 3B Enterprises. The animals landed at Karachi airport in the middle of July without the importer having the mandatory import permit from the federal government’s National Council for Conservation of Wildlife (NCCW).

But the customs released the animals on an assurance from KMC officials that the required documents were in process and would be submitted soon.

Responding to Dawn queries, a top official of the customs posted at Karachi airport and who had been associated with the clearance of the consignments told this reporter on a condition of anonymity that at least two notices had been issued to the KMC seeking the required NOC / permits which the latter had promised to file at the time of getting the animals released.

When asked why the consignment without the mandatory documents was released in the first place, he said there was a provision in the law that when an importer, who did not have the documents available at the time of goods clearance, gave an undertaking that he would get those soon, he was usually given some time to submit the required documents.

In this particular case, he explained, as the importing party was a government organisation and when a senior government official gave an undertaking that the permits / documents were being obtained and would be filed soon, it was taken on face value.

But when the documents were not submitted despite repeated phone calls to the KMC officials in this regard, the Pakistan Customs finally issued a notice to the KMC to submit the documents, the official said.

After the issuance of the first notice, ‘probably’ another notice was issued to the KMC when the officials did not file the mandatory import documents, he added.

The official said that if the KMC did not submit the required permits even after getting the repeated notice, punitive action that could lead to confiscation of the animals could be taken. The KMC was being spared some time only because it was a government agency, he added.

However, he warned, if the mandatory permission/NOC was not submitted then the customs would be left with no other option but to take the extreme step of animal confiscation.

Speaking to Dawn, KMC senior director who controls the zoo, Rehan Khan, confirmed that the customs was in contact with the corporation regarding the documents issue. The papers would be submitted as soon as they were made available, he said, adding that the KMC had also issued a notice to the contractor, who had supplied the animals to the KMC, to submit the import permits / NOC.

He said that under the terms of the contract, the contractor had to supply the animals to the KMC and also obtain and get all the required documentation completed. “So it is the contractor’s responsibility to get the documents,” he said.

Mr Khan said the contractor would not be paid the money (Rs17.5 million) unless he provided the documents to the KMC.

He said the contract for the pair of white lions was awarded for Rs10 million, while the contract for Bengal tigers was given for Rs7.5 million. As he had not provided the mandatory documents, not a single penny had been paid to him, the official said.

Asked when he expected the documents would be made available, Mr Khan said he could not give any timeframe but the papers were in the process and would be issued soon.

In reply to another question about the options available with the KMC if the contractor did not submit the documents, he said that the KMC could take punitive action. He, however, did not explain the likely action.

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