KARACHI: The indefinite strike launched by customs agent against penalties levied by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) have so far resulted in losses worth Rs10 billion in business and revenue collection, the News learnt on Tuesday.
This is primarily due delays in consignment clearance of imports and exports and supplies to Nato/ISAF.
“All consignment clearance services to imports and exports have been suspended in protest against illegal issuance of Order-in-Original (ONO),” said Shams Burney, chairman, All Pakistan Customs Agents Association (APCAA).
The protest is being supported by bonded carrier associations causing a shutdown in supplies for western forces based in Afghanistan.
Customs agents’ leaders claimed that goods carriers had also joined the protest and supplies of imported goods up country and similarly transportation of exports would soon be suspended.
“All Pakistan Goods Carrier Association, United Goods Carriers Association and KPT Goods Carriers Association have joined the protest of customs agents,” said Saifullah Khan, president, Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA).
KCAA, APCAA and All Pakistan Customs Bonded Carrier Association are jointly protesting against the FBR against dragging the clearing agent into the ISAF missing containers scam.
“We have no role in missing containers case because customs agents responsibility is completed at the port of entry, while handling the consignment/containers to national carrier,” said Saifullah Khan.
But officials at Pakistan Customs claimed that the there was no revenue collection loss due to the strike and work at collection offices across the country was proceeding as usual.
“Importers or clearing agents using importer ID have filed goods declarations in the automated system, which is self clearance system,” a customs official said and added that clearance of oil and coal was continuing. Saifullah Khan, however, termed Pakistan Customs claims as misleading. He said that he revenue intake in Karachi was about Rs1.5 billion alone and the customs authorities had only collected Rs200 million by Tuesday evening.
This included encashment of treasuries deposited against guarantees.
Meanwhile, a meeting was held on Monday evening in Karachi between the customs agents’ representatives and senior customs officials of Pakistan Customs.
However, the meeting ended in failure as customs officials refused to withdraw the notices (ONOs). Instead they insisted the agents should file an appeal against the notices. Saifullah Khan confirmed this and added that the customs directorate must rectify their mistake.
So far about three ONOs have been issued. At least 9,000 more will be sent out by mid-November.
On protest’s first day, customs agents gathered before the Karachi Custom House and chanted slogan against FBR. They demanded the withdrawal of the notices forthwith otherwise the protest would continue.
“We understand the business losses due to this protest, but we have no other option and the strike will continue until the FBR accepted our demands,” Saifullah Khan said. The matter came to a collision after the FBR had served a large number of notices to customs agents to recover the amount in the missing containers scam.
The national exchequer suffered about Rs53 billion, revealed by the then FBR chairman Salman Siddique before the Supreme Court.