PESHAWAR: No joint checkpoints could be set up to stop the smuggling of contraband items worth billions of rupees every month even though the Police Department had suggested joint efforts to stop the practice as the money being made is used in terrorism and other crimes.
A former police chief of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in a letter to the federal government in March 2016 had expressed concern over the volume of smuggling of the contraband items from the then tribal areas to down-country. The smuggling has continued as measures to check it remain ineffective.
The drugs being smuggled to Peshawar and rest of the country from erstwhile tribal areas as well as Afghanistan have ruined the lives of thousands of people, especially youth. Despite a number of campaigns launched against the peddlers and dealers in the last few years, the addicts continue to easily get the required drugs in any part of the KP and other provinces.
The senior police officials had suggested to the federal government authorities in the letter couple of years back to set up joint checkposts of Police and Customs with closed-circuit television cameras and sensitive scanners installed at key points to stop smuggling by checking vehicles and containers.
A source said that even after the passage of two and a half years, no joint checkpost could be set up in Peshawar or any other district.
The source pointed out that the government had withdrawn anti-smuggling powers vested in the police under the Customs Act 1969 through a notification issued in July 2005. The police force is no more responsible for stopping smuggling and even if it does, it hands over the accused and the seized goods to the Customs.
However, the source added, smuggling is still considered as the main source of income for a large number of police officials, especially those deployed in places from which the known smuggling routes pass. The money generated through the practice is called ‘soft money’ which many believe is still better than the ‘hard money’ earned in criminal cases.
“The Karkhano Market located on the boundary between Khyber and Peshawar has become the most lucrative source of smuggling of various goods to different parts of the country. The money being minted through smuggling is also being used in the financing of terrorism and militancy,” said the letter sent by the former KP Police chief, Nasir Khan Durrani, to the federal government authorities on March 15, 2016.
The Customs and Police authorities have been checking vehicles, motorbikes, bicycles and even pedestrians coming out of the Karkhano Market. However, no solid action has been taken against the major gangs on both sides of the boundary, especially those selling ice, heroin, hashish and other drugs.
The letter by the then IGP KP sent over two years back hinted that the menace of smuggling of non-customs paid vehicles, cattle, food, electronics, cloth, contrabands and other items is rampant in certain parts of KP.
A large number of the non-customs paid (NCP) vehicles are being smuggled into Pakistan from Afghanistan and are then transported to the tribal districts, Malakand division and the mainland. There is no ban on the NCP vehicles in many tribal areas and in Malakand division.
“Since these vehicles are devoid of formal documentation including the bill of landing and proof of ownership, therefore these are being increasingly used by the miscreants and criminals in terrorism and for the realization of the nefarious designs,” the KP Police letter stated clearly.
The letter appreciated the Customs authorities for successfully taking action against the smugglers. However, it stressed the need for a comprehensive strategy to check all kind of smuggling and loss to the national exchequer. It added that blocking smuggling will also help deny financial support to the militants and terrorists.
“The police have been helping the Customs authorities in providing information and handing over the seized goods. The force is willing to further extend assistance by setting up joint checkposts with Customs, equipped with CCTV cameras and scanners for enhanced checking of containers and vehicles. Police will provide security to these checking points,” said the letter.