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July 10, 2019

Customs deputy collector martyred following attack by smugglers

National

July 10, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Dr Abdul Qudoos Shaikh, FBR’s Deputy Collector, Anti-Smuggling, Model Customs Collectorate of Preventive, Quetta, was martyred in an ambush when he was conducting an operation against smugglers.

An outstanding enforcement sleuth of the Pakistan Customs Service, while enforcing the writ of the government in Balochistan, was ambushed on the night of July 03 after seizing a container load of smuggled high-value goods near Kohlpur.

As the staff was busy completing legal formalities, Dr Shaikh, on his way back to his headquarters office in Quetta, was forcibly stopped near Gahi Khan Chowk by two vehicles of armed men, who rammed their jeeps into his official car. The assailants forcibly pulled him out of his vehicle and brutally assaulted him with SMG butts and then escaped, leaving him critically injured. With the officer barely clinging on to his life, he was brought to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Quetta, and admitted to its Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

“Such is the cost that the Customs Department pays for, in the line of duty, however this often goes unrecognised,” stated a senior Customs official.

Needless to mention that this was not the first attack on Customs officials engaged in anti-smuggling operations as in the last three years, 10 officers/officials have lost their lives and dozens were injured. Besides the fatalities, there have been notable instances of staff being kidnapped, especially in Balochistan and KP, to browbeat the Customs Department into submission besides loss/damage to state infrastructure.

The issue of smuggling finds its genesis in Pakistan’s border terrain which spans a distance of 7,888 kilometres, including 1,046 kilometres coastline. Smuggling through these western frontiers has flourished due to high import tariffs and transit trade with Afghanistan. Contributing to this is non-recruitment of human resource, low investment in infrastructure and logistics for the Customs though requests for beefing up support for Customs Border Management Initiatives by the department remain pending.

To enhance coordination efforts amongst the enforcement units and with other LEAs, two chief collectorates, one each at Lahore and Quetta, are being established. The HR requirements of the new formations have been met by redeployment of staff/ infrastructure from other collectorates by carrying-out systematic need-analysis vis-à-vis business workloads. Finally, to monitor the illegal currency movement and anti-money laundering efforts, the office of Director, Cross-Border Currency Movement (CBCM) has also been established without any fresh recruitment.

In retrospect, smuggling is a major issue confronting the state and domestic industry in Pakistan. It not only erodes its revenue base, but also assists in growth of the informal economy, promotes corruption, money laundering, etc.

Recognising the challenge that smuggling poses to the socio-economic policies, a number of high-level meetings have been chaired by the prime minister to curb smuggling and related phenomena of hawala and hundi. Such high-level focus indicates that the political leadership appreciates the fact that illegal cross-border movement of goods creates problems for society like violation of sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, quality standards, intellectual property rights, environmental protection, drug controls etc.

At a reference, widely attended by Customs and Trade officials, Dr Jawwad Agha, Member Customs (Operations), extolled the deceased’s commitment to his duty and organisation and called upon the officers and staff to emulate the enviable conduct and ultimate sacrifice of Dr Qudoos in the line of duty.

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