ISLAMABAD: A week-long joint crackdown by various agencies of the government led to the confiscation of about $544 million worth of foreign currency and other goods on the Pak-Afghan border.

This was informed on Friday to an inter-ministerial meeting on anti-smuggling measures presided over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and attended by Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar, SAPM’s on finance and revenue, SBP governor, secretaries of finance, interior and senior members of intelligence agencies and Federal Board of Revenue.

Informed sources said the meeting was told that foreign currency worth $269,000 and other goods valued at $541m were confiscated at various border points during the week between Dec 9 and 15.

The crackdown had also created a sense of harassment among the traders who were disappearing from the scene and appeared to be working as an effective deterrent against smuggling.

This showed that all these agencies had not been playing their due role until last week when a high-level meeting took note of the flight of foreign exchange and essential goods despite a serious currency crisis and record inflation amid a short supply of commodities in the open market.

The meeting advised the relevant agencies to also keep a heavy hand against those arrested for smuggling and advertised such elements would not be tolerated and proceeded against in the courts.

The Ministry of Finance in a press release said the meeting reviewed the progress on anti-smuggling measures and a roadmap to strengthen the anti-smuggling regime in the country. It was reported that strict and vigilant operations coordinated by various agencies initiated against the illegal cross-border movement of foreign currency, urea, wheat and other items by the Customs, law enforcement and intelligence agencies were in full swing.

The representatives of Pakistan Customs, FIA and the Ministry of Interior updated the meeting on their progress and suggested measures to curb the menace of smuggling.

The finance minister highlighted the necessity to stop the cross-border smuggling of foreign currency and other valuable items affecting the economic growth in the country and expressed satisfaction with the progress of concerned agencies.

He further stressed the need for coordination among all the concerned agencies for this purpose and directed them to take comprehensive and combined action against those involved in currency smuggling and speculation. He further directed the relevant authorities to speed up their operations.

It was also decided that a regular review meeting on anti-smuggling operations will be held every week.

Last week, the inter-ministerial body had expressed serious concerns 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 2,500 km of borders at the cost of more than Rs50bn. It was observed that while it was humanely difficult to monitor such a long border yet this could not be allowed to go on.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2022

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