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Monday July 22, 2024

Efforts urged to curb illicit trade

By Muhammad Riaz Mayar
June 10, 2024
Participants attend a day-long workshop hosted by ACT Alliance Pakistan on June 8, 2024. — facebook/ACT Alliance - Pakistan
Participants attend a day-long workshop hosted by ACT Alliance Pakistan on June 8, 2024. — facebook/ACT Alliance - Pakistan

MARDAN: The representatives from various sectors, including business leaders, media professionals and civil society organizations, on Sunday called for efforts to counter illicit trade as it was hurting the national economy.

The ACT Alliance Pakistan hosted the dialogue to address the issue of illicit trade and its detrimental impact on the local, provincial and national economies.

The event brought together representatives from various sectors, including business leaders, media professionals and civil society organisations to discuss the pressing economic challenges posed by illicit trade, tax evasion, smuggling and counterfeiting.

They said that illicit trade had reached alarming levels with an estimated $68 billion in illicit activities occurring annually in the country. Tax evasion accounts for over $21 billion, while smuggling exceeds $3 billion. Additionally, nearly 80 percent of products, particularly in town centres and rural areas, are counterfeited. These figures underscored the urgent need for collective action to address these pervasive issues.

Speaking at the event, Ihsan Bacha, president of the Traders Association Mardan lauded the ACT Alliance for its efforts in raising awareness and fostering collaboration to combat illicit trade. “The ACT Alliance’s initiative to reach out to local communities and raise awareness about illicit trade is commendable. The trader community in Mardan recognizes the challenges posed by illicit trade

and is committed to cooperating to eradicate this menace,” Ihsan Bacha said.

The dialogue shed light on sector-specific tax evasion figures, underscoring the magnitude of the problem. The petroleum sector faces tax evasion amounting to Rs996 billion, the real estate sector Rs500

billion, and the tobacco sector Rs310 billion annually. Despite these staggering figures, the government has disproportionately focused on extracting unjust taxes from the tobacco sector, which already pays

heavy taxes. Expressing concern about this imbalance, local civil society leaders urged the government to take decisive action against tax evaders and those involved in illicit trading in tobacco products.

Mubashir Akram, the National Convener of ACT Alliance, made a presentation to the participants, emphasizing the potential benefits of addressing the illicit economy. “If Pakistan manages to recover even 25 percent of the losses incurred due to the illicit economy, it will result in billions of dollars being

injected into national and local development projects, directly benefiting communities,” Akram stated. The event highlighted the need for a multi-faceted approach to combat illicit trade. The ACT Alliance employs various strategies, including advocating for more robust regulatory frameworks, launching public awareness campaigns, and fostering international cooperation to address smuggling and counterfeiting. By aligning with global best practices and leveraging local expertise, the ACT Alliance aims to create a sustainable and impactful movement against activities that undermine Pakistan’s economy.