ISLAMABAD: An inter-ministerial huddle on Friday noted with concern that many of the challenges confronting the country were being aggravated by smuggling, mostly on western borders and decided to take robust measures to stop the outflow of foreign currency and critical imported commodities.

The meeting presided over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was told that various reports suggest that not only foreign currency but wheat and urea were imported at huge subsidies at the cost of scarce foreign exchange flowing to Afghanistan.

The participants of the meeting were flabbergasted that the smuggling of urea, wheat and currency was happening despite the presence of a large workforce of civil and armed forces and customs and fencing of over 2,500km of borders at the cost of more than Rs50 billion. It was observed that while it was humanely difficult to monitor such a long border yet this could not be allowed to go on.

Mr Dar directed that all stakeholders should put their acts together in a coordinated manner beyond routine responsibilities in the nation’s interest while also keeping in mind the sensitivities across the border.

Finance minister stresses coordinated efforts in the national interest

“Everybody will have to play a role because no single institution could overcome the situation without the cooperation of others,” the finance minister said. The meeting felt it ironic that large dollar amounts were moving out purportedly in the name of coal being imported from Afghanistan in local currency.

“The meeting discussed and reviewed the economic situation and current mechanism of foreign currency, wheat and urea smuggling,” said a statement issued by the Ministry of Finance, adding that various measures were discussed in order to strengthen the anti-smuggling regime.

The measures were not specified in the statement. Still, an official said all the stakeholders particularly customs intelligence, frontier constabulary and intelligence agencies were asked by the finance minister to come up with their respective roadmaps on an urgent basis to address the menace, causing serious financial and foreign exchange loss to the kitty when it faced historic challenges.

The meeting was also attended by law minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, Special Assistants to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Tariq Bajwa and Tariq Pasha, SBP governor, secretaries of finance and interior and DG Federal Investigation Agency and Customs and senior representatives of intelligence agencies.

The finance minister “stressed upon the need of coordination among all the necessary platforms” to address the situation and asked the relevant authorities to devise a robust and proactive road map to curb the cross-border smuggling of various items in order to bring economic and financial stability to the country.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2022

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