IN the wake of the deepening current economic crisis and depleting foreign exchange reserves of the country, the government has imposed a ban on the import of non-essential items in a bid to narrow the widening trade gap that has risen to about $39 billion annually.

The decision was announced on May 19 and was implemented with immediate effect, leaving the importers in shock as many shipments, containing recently-banned items, had already been booked or were about to arrive at Pakistani ports. Subsequently, when the issue was highlighted, a notification was issued to exempt shipments obtaining Bill of Lading (BL) or irrevocable Letter of Credit (LC) of dates prior to the May 19 ban.

In the midst of all this, those who deal on the basis of mutual understanding and trade history with the exporters are suffering the most because they did not have enough time to cancel the shipments when the ban was imposed, and they do not have LC documents to avail the exemption. I am one of those ill-fated importers, and I had my container booked 25 days before the imposition of the ban, but due to unavailability of vessels in China, the shipment was delayed until May 20.

The government should have implemented the ban at least five days after the announcement so we could have made relevant arrangements. Now I am running from pillar to post to get my issue sorted because after a few days a heavy amount of per-day detention will be applied on the said cargo by the shipping company.

The relevant authorities would do well to look into the matter and provide a way out of the situation so I, and people like me, may avoid detention and further hassle.

Atiq Khalid
Karachi

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2022

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