Despite all rhetoric and tall claims, Government's
anti-smuggling drive seems to have fizzled out after an initial success and the
smuggled goods are now freely available in most of the markets.
After a crackdown on loan defaulters in November 1999, the
present government announced strict action against the traders of smuggled
goods. April 30, 2000 was fixed as the deadline for the disposal of smuggled
items. It was further announced that after the deadline the shopkeepers would
have to pay a fixed duty on the illegally imported goods and dispose them of
within six months.
Federal Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider said goods worth
Rs. 150-200 billion were smuggled into the country depriving the state of Rs.
70-90 billion in revenue. He further said that entry points for the smuggled
goods had been identified, which would be monitored to arrest the smugglers.
Initially, the warning was taken seriously as shopkeepers
hurried to dispose of the smuggled goods stocks before the April 30 deadline.
The arrival of smuggled items in the markets also declined as shopkeepers were
afraid to keep smuggled stocks.
On hue and cry and even threats from powerful outlaws in the
NWFP who largely control the smuggler mafia in the country, the Interior
Ministry made an agreement with the representatives of the Bara Markets on April
30 that it would allow the smuggled goods traders to sell their existing stocks
by July 31. The traders had also agreed to pay duty on leftover and further
stocks of smuggled goods at fixed rate on per shutter basis. According to this
agreement, all shopkeepers, dealing exclusively in smuggled goods anywhere in
Pakistan, were to be required to pay a fixed tax of Rs.10,000 for a cabinet, Rs.
115,000 for a shop with one shutter and Rs. 40,000 for a shop with double
shutter. Tax of Rs. 20,000 per shutter was to be levied on every shop with more
than two shutters. Wholesalers and composite shops like establishment dealing in
both local and smuggled goods, were to be required to pay concessional duty at
25% of normal tariff on their stocks of smuggled goods.
The C.B.R. and Ministry of Finance objected to idea of
taxation on per shutter or size of shop basis. According to them it was not in
accordance with taxation laws prevailing in the country and could lead to legal
complications at a later stage.
In the first week of September last, the government decided
to bring the sprawling Bara Market under the purview of Custom Act instead of
imposing shutter tax on their shops as earlier agreed between the
representatives of bara markets and the Ministry of Interior. The decision was
reportedly taken on the directive of the Chief Executive to bring Bara Markets
into tax net and extend the on going tax survey of business to the smuggled
goods markets all over the country. The survey teams will start visiting the
smuggled goods markets commonly known as bara markets, from October, in the
second round of the survey form distribution. The C.B.R. has already announced
the extension of survey to smaller towns of the country after completing it in
13 major cities, but no bara market has been touched so far.
A visit to Bara Markets in the twin city of Pindi/Islamabad
revealed that sale and purchase of smuggled items is going on as usual without
any fear or panic. You find all sorts of smuggled goods from household
appliances and toiletries to spare parts are available in abundance. According
to reports in NWFP and Balochistan even smuggled cars and petroleum products are
Central Board of Revenue had since long identified six major
items, which are brought in the country mostly through smuggling. These items
include tyres and tubes, auto-parts, watches, crockery, electronics and
sanitaryware. Market study reveals that there is absolutely no check on the
smuggling of these items. With regard to autopart, it was found that there was
no change in the level of smuggled autoparts. In fact, there are certain items,
which are exclusively available through smuggling channels only. Spark plugs
used in all motorcycles, auto-rickshaws, scooters, petrol cars are smuggled in
millions every year. The import of these items was almost nil during the past
decade. The only spark-plug factory established in the private sector has since
long gone out of production as it could not compete with the price offered for
In tyres and tubes, the production of local bus and truck
tyres is negligible as the smuggled foreign brands of superior quality are
available at much lower rates. The Customs authorities are well aware of the
modus operandi adopted by the smugglers to bring smuggled tyres in the country
but have failed to take any action against the culprits.
Rampant smuggling of watches has led to fake imitations of
genuine brands finding way into the market. Ordinary customer cannot
differentiate between genuine and fake models and most of the time ends up
paying very high price for fake watches. The shopkeepers do have the expertise
to recognise a fake watch, which they buy at very low rates to mike heavy
Television, refrigerators and air conditioners were the main
electronic items which two years ago were smuggled in larger quantities than
local production or legal imports. Smuggling of these three items declined after
import duties on these products were substantially reduced. It was found that
smuggling of television was again on the rise after increase in its import duty
in the current budget.
Almost all other electronic items are smuggled into the
country. These include mixers, grinders, juice extractors, hair dryers, vacuum
cleaners and radios. In fact, local radio assembling industry has been wiped out
of the market by the smuggled radios.
As far as crockery is concerned, the official imports are
negligible while the markets are flooded with smuggled crockery of all types be
it glassware, Chinaware or plastic. It was found that the payment for the
smuggled items is made by the smugglers through Hundi. These smugglers pay the
amount in Pak Rupees while the hundi operators arrange the transfer in
equivalent dollars to the required destination through telephonic transfer (TT)
Two weeks back the government announced that it will soon
promulgate two new laws to comprehensively strike at the scourage of smuggling.
One of the two new laws will deal with legitimisation of smuggled goods in Bara
Markets, making owner of the stocks to pay duty and taxes within a given period
of three months. The second law will enable various government agencies to
control smuggling of all things including the POL, wheat and electrical goods
more efficiently. The proposed ordinances are however still awaited.