ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on Thursday made a stunning revelation before the Senate Standing Committee on Commerce that a total of 157,736 containers of the United States destined to Afghanistan have never reached the landlocked country and disappeared inside Pakistan.
These revelations were made by officiating FBR Chairman Mehmud Aalam. Of these, Aalam said that a maximum of 95,374 containers never reached any exit point to Afghanistan, while the remaining 77,884 containers had no record in the Pakistan Customs Computerised System (PaCCS).
The FBR official also revealed that the US consignment was cleared under a special privilege without submission of goods declaration.
However, Aalam expressed the hope that the issue about the discontinuation of banning US/NATO/ISAF containers to Afghanistan would be resolved as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other ministries concerned are engaged in resolving it amicably.
To a question of Standing Committee Chairman Khurram Dastagir about who orders the banning of US/NATO/ISAF containers, the FBR chairman expressed his ignorance, saying, “They have no written orders by the competent authority, but the FBR will sort it out and inform the committee in the coming days.”
To a question of Kashmala Tariq, the FBR chairman assured the committee that the revenue body is continuing improving the mechanism to plug the loopholes in transit trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan as the transit import recorded a significant decrease of 61 percent after reviewing new transit agreement between the two sides.
The FBR also recorded an increase of Rs8 billion in revenues through import of such items, which are previously imported under the Afghan transit, he added.
Hafiz Anis, Member Audit, informed the committee that all the alleged Customs officials involved in missing containers case were served show-cause notices, while over 500 officials were penalised Rs1.936 billion.
To a question about the slow pace of proceedings in about 28,802 commercial and 3,542 non-commercial containers case, Anis said that although it is slow, there is no shortcut to speed up the financial and criminal proceedings against the culprits.
He assured the committee that the whole issue would be wounded up in the next two months. The FBR has suffered a total revenue loss of Rs55 billion in the missing 28,802 containers from 350,000 commercial containers, while 3,542 containers of 19,000 non-commercial containers have never reached either Torkham or Chaman, said Hafiz.
Commerce Secretary Zafar Mehmud informed the committee that the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Council for Trade in Goods (CTG) will decide about the fate of the European Union’s package for Pakistan to permit 75 items to the 27-member bloc in the first week of February, while the whole process would be completed within next three months.
About GSP plus, the commerce secretary said that the EU has changed the previous criteria of one-two percent of Pakistan’s exports to the EU of the total exports of the bloc.
The committee unanimously agreed to finalise the draft of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) Ordinance in the next meeting and would sent it to the house for approval, he said.