Senators seek appointment of quarantine staff at Taftan border

Updated October 23, 2019

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PORTERS at Zero Point in Taftan carrying Iranian apples on their back.—Dawn file photo
PORTERS at Zero Point in Taftan carrying Iranian apples on their back.—Dawn file photo

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Commerce and Textile on Tuesday recommended early appointment of quarantine officers in Balochistan to support legal import of apples and vegetables including onions and tomatoes.

The meeting, presided over by Committee Chairman Senator Mirza Muhammad Afridi, also took up the issue of imposition of taxes on import of apple from Taftan and Chaghi districts which is believed to have giving way to smuggling of the fruit from Iran.

Senator Kauda Babar briefed the committee that the problem was arising mainly due to absence of quarantine officers which could help in streamlining the process of import through proper taxation. The committee was informed that Iran has also banned import of mangoes and citrus from Pakistan for not meeting the required standards.

The committee was informed that Quarantine Act has been mandatory. A representative of Food Security said a new draft will be brought to cabinet soon to curb smuggling of apple from Iran and pave way for legal import and issuance of import permit.

Advisor on Commerce Razak Dawood told the committee that eradicating the menace of smuggling is the goal of the government and steps are being taken to achieve the same. The adviser suggested holding a meeting with the Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industry to resolve these issues and address the grievances of importers.

The committee also took up the matter of import of onions and tomatoes from Iran. It noted that prohibiting imports of these essential vegetables was neither strengthened farmers nor helping in reducing prices as otherwise claimed.

Secretary Commerce Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera assured the committee that the issue will be addressed at earliest.

While discussing allowing import of re-rollable scrap, mutilation of scrap and petroleum products including white spirit and hydrocarbon, the committee was told that the restriction on import on three containers of an importer was due to the dispute in whether the contents of the containers qualify as scrap or not.

Chief Collector Customs Balochistan Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Chaudhry told the meeting that the case has been sent to court and will be decided accordingly. A sub-committee was constituted to investigate the matter as well as see the issue of smuggling on broader perspective to be led by Senator Ahmed Khan.

The committee also discussed problems faced by local manufacturers, spinners, weavers, traders and exporters with regard to input tax, GST mechanism for local turnover tax, ID card payment issues and the additional 10 per cent tax imposed on traders as well as status of refunds under new system and problems in submission of annexure-H.

Briefing the committee, Member Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Hamid Ateeq said the revenue body holds a meeting every Monday with all five sectors of textile industry to address their problems on a regular basis. He said that there are problems in filing of Annexure H but people are learning. He also told that 561 refund claims of five sectors were received till October 21 morning and 287 were processed and cleared last week.

Member FBR assured the committee that the tax authority is willing to sit with all association representatives and manufacturers/exporters etc to resolve their issues regarding inspection teams coming to outlets and not headquarters, giving time and assistance for becoming part of the integrated scanning mechanism and revision of sales tax percentage.

This system will help consumers check if the taxes they pay are transferred to the government or not, he noted.

The meeting was attended by Leader of the House Senator Shibli Faraz and Senators including Nuzhat Sadiq, Maulana Atta ur Rehman, Muhammad Tahir Bizenjo, Ahmed Khan, Kahuda Babar, Ghous Bakhsh Niazi and Rana Mehmood ul Hassan.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2019