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US rejects reports about 19,000 missing containers

Updated September 06, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Sept 5: The United States rejected on Thursday reports claiming that 19,000 containers of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) had gone missing from the Karachi port.

“Media suggestions that 19,000 United States/Isaf containers were stolen, including containers that contained weapons and ammunition, are false. While the United States routinely uses Karachi ports for both diplomatic and military shipments, neither the United States nor Isaf has ever shipped weapons or ammunition via Karachi ports,” a statement issued by the US embassy here said.

The controversy over the disappearance of thousands of containers resurfaced two years after an inquiry into the matter was ordered by the Supreme Court on a claim made by Director General of Sindh Rangers that 19,000 containers had been stolen from the Karachi Port when MQM leader Babar Khan Ghauri was the Ports and Shipping Minister.

During the hearing of a case about violence in Karachi, the DG Rangers had reportedly linked the surge of arms in the port city to the alleged disappearance of thousands of containers carrying arms.

The embassy statement also said that all US government and Isaf cargo shipments were subject to inspection by Pakistani customs authorities and the United States and Isaf used carriers licensed and bonded by Pakistani Customs authorities. It said that the US tracked for all military cargo shipments worldwide, including the shipments entering and transiting Pakistan.

“We have engaged the appropriate Pakistani authorities on this topic. We have underscored that the United States is able to account for all shipments that have arrived in and transited Karachi ports,” the statement said.

Soon after the resurfacing of the ‘missing containers’ issue, MQM leader and former minister for ports and shipping Babar Khan Ghauri described it as a conspiracy against the MQM and warned that cornering the people of a particular community was not a good omen and would produce adverse results for the country.

“I want to make it clear that Port and Shipping Ministry’s responsibility is to manage administrative activities, including permitting ships at the port while the FBR and other agencies are there to deal with the matter of clearance of containers.”

He also pointed out that various agencies, including Naval Intelligence, ISI, IB and others were also present to monitor the clearance of all containers. He appealed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to from a commission to investigate the matter.

The Supreme Court, during the course of hearing of the Karachi violence case, had recently sought suggestions for corrective measures, appropriate lawful action and strict penalisation to halt the influx of firearms in the city which were subsequently used in organised and violent crimes.

The Supreme Court ordered a one-man commission to determine the authenticity of reports that a shipload of guns and ammunition had arrived at the Karachi port during the tenure of the then minister for ports and shipping.The commission is reported to have started work on four points: smuggling of arms and ammunition, veracity of the DG Sindh Rangers’ statement, revenue leakages and its role in incidents of terrorism and preventive measures to avert such scandals in future.