The agreement will help a lot to curb smuggling and eliminate Bara
According to the concerned authorities the 5-day talks between the
visiting Afghan delegation headed by Interior Minister, Mullah Abdul Razzak Akhund and his
Pakistani counterpart Moinuddin Haider and the Commerce Minister proved very fruitful. The
Afghan leaders assured full cooperation of their country in Pakistan's efforts to curb
smuggling, elimination of traffic in narcotics and terrorism.
Denying that Pakistani criminals were being provided shelter in
Afghanistan the Afghan leader promised to enhance their vigilance making it difficult for
Pakistani outlaws to take refuge in his country. Afghan leaders assured the Pakistan
authorities of their full cooperation and support in eliminating drug trafficking as they
themselves were keen to put an end to the drug business.
The main break through occurred when the Afghan delegation agreed on a
new transit agreement eliminating a number of items from the import list which they had so
far been resisting. Afghan delegation responded sympathetically when Interior Minister
Moinuddin and Commerce Minister Razzak Dawood explained to them that Pakistan trade and
industry was facing serious problems because a large volume of goods purchased by Afghan
Government under the transit trade agreement (ATT) were neither required by Afghani people
nor they ever reached their markets and the same were illegally finding their way into
Pakistani markets. Pakistan wanted to delete all such items from the import list under ATT
which were not meant for sale in Afghanistan. The idea of common custom union also came
under discussion. Under such an arrangement either Pakistan can collect custom duty on
Afghan government's behalf or it can have its own staff collect the duty at the port of
entry of transit trade goods. It was suggested that all those items which have been
identified as being not required in Afghan markets and suspected to be smuggled in
Pakistan will carry the same rate of duty as applicable to Pakistan importers. The Afghan
delegation agreed to revise the list as desired by Pakistan in a gradual way. Pakistan had
suggested 58 such items, Afghan leader, however, readily agreed to drop 30 and promised to
consider the rest in due course.
This agreement will help a lot in the on going efforts of government of
Pakistan to curb smuggling and eliminate Bara culture of tax evasion and bring it closer
to success. The issue of smuggling and transit trade are two sides of the same coin. Under
an agreement signed in 1995, Pakistan has been providing transit trade facilities to the
land locked Afghanistan. But this facility has been grossly misused. Many of the items
imported in the name of Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) are not meant for sale in Afghanistan,
but for marketing in Pakistan. Hence, during the supposed transit process these items make
a U-turn to be sold in the local Bara Markets. Not surprisingly, the items thus imported
include things that are either unusable in Afghanistan (like air conditioners which have
an extremely limited usage there or fabrics, including chiffon saree lengths that
certainly have no place in Afghan women's sartorial habits) or are imported in vast
quantities to save some for sale in Pakistan. ATT is thus the biggest single source of
smuggled goods on which our so-called Bara Markets thrive, and the local industry suffers.
The problem has persisted mainly because of the Afghan government's failure to ensure that
the trade facility does not turn into the illegal smuggling activity that it does.
The bulk of the over growing volume of goods imported for Afghanistan
not only find their way into border areas of this country, but also flood the markets in
almost all cities where special bazaars have sprung up which freely sell a wide variety of
smuggled goods at relatively low prices, driving the locally manufactured or legally
imported items of the same kinds out of the market. Pakistan has always been generous to
the needs of its land-locked neighbour to the point of sacrificing the interests of its
own trade and industry and even paying a heavy price itself in terms of revenue losses.
The extent of losses on this account can be seen from the fact that during the last three
years Afghan transit trade has recorded a phenomenal increase of about 300 per cent
despite the absence of any revival in economic activity in that country. The inflow
includes goods which have absolutely no demand in that war-torn country where electricity
is scarce and where the use of razor, razor blades, co-smetics, cigarettes etc, is no
longer common these days as a result of the strict edicts of the orthodox Taliban regime
Eliminating smuggling-prone items from the transit trade list is only a
part of the solution. Since the sanctions imposed by the UN on Afghanistan regime and
stricter supervision of transit trade on the Pakistan side, Afghan traders and their
collaborators on this side of the Durand Line have succeeded in finding alternative routes
for the import of goods which Pakistan has placed on the negative list. Press reports
suggest that goods are being imported either directly by air from Dubai to Jalalbad or by
sea and land route via Iran. The bulk of there goods then find their way into Pakistan.
The remedy thus lies in strict vigilance on both sides of the border.
Nowadays goods from Afghanistan into Pakistan are not carried on donkey
and camel backs as in days of yore but by convoys of vehicles moving on well-marked
tracks. Smuggling by this means of transport is not possible without the custom staff and
para-military personnel who are posted on these routes being in collusion with the
smugglers. These services should be cleansed of corruption and law must be strictly
enforced. It is encouraging to know that decisions in respect of those matters have been
taken for the first time.