ISLAMABAD: Confusion prevails over the status of a possible extension of the ban on the import of nearly 800 items in 33 categories including food products while its validity ended on July 19, Dawn has learnt from knowledgeable sources.

The government on May 19 imposed a two-month ban on these products in a bid to contain the rising import bill and minimise pressure on the country’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves. The annual impact of this ban was estimated between $250m to $500m.

A well-placed source in the commerce ministry told Dawn that it has approached the finance ministry to seek the status of further extension in the ban. “We have started reviewing the impact of the ban on imports and consultation with relevant stakeholders”, the source further said.

A senior official of the finance ministry has also informed a standing committee meeting that the government is reviewing the options of whether to continue the ban or withdraw it after consultation with all stakeholders.

Last week, the federal government approved a summary of the commerce ministry seeking to allow clearance of all goods stuck at ports that had arrived after the May 19 notification but booked before the announcement of this decision.

The ban was imposed in a sense to slow down imports. However, no respite was noted in the country’s overall import bill which grew to $7.88bn in June from $6.77bn in May.

Meanwhile, the banned items were imported under the Afghan Transit Trade and were smuggled back to Pakistan during the last two months.

Despite the decision, the dollar scaled an all-time high above Rs224 driven by a rising import bill, growing current account deficit and depleting foreign exchange reserves.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2022

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