ISLAMABAD: Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) Senator Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar is an active member of the Senate Standing Committee on Commerce as well as a number of other committees. He has been vocal on finance, commerce and other issues related to national as well as provincial, especially the Balochitsan both inside the Senate and on the forum of committees. Gracing a request for interview to Customs Today, he lauded the Pakistan Customs for showing amazing performance in checking smuggling from Iran and Afghanistan which had crumbled the local agricultural produces and commercial activities Balochistan.
However, he demanded 20 to 30 percent reduction in taxes on value-added products likely to be exported from Balochistan to other countries. He said that the step will support traders and business community in competing with the Iranian and Afghan counterparts in Central Asian Republics. Moreover, the government must also increase import duty on goods from Afghanistan and Iran because Pakistani exporters have faced a number of problems at the hands of security agencies of both the countries. Presently, Baloch traders have to pay a number of taxes to Iranian Customs and tax authorities, including the road tax and others which make the exports costlier in Iran. This has resulted in closure of 80 percent businesses, especially exports from Balochistan. Therefore, he said that the local businessmen are forced to shift their working capital to other countries.
To a question about solution to the backwardness of Balochistan, Usman Kakar said that complete solution of the backwardness of Balochistan lied in a financial bailout package of Rs 150 billion by the federal government to the province. With the help of this package, Balochistan will be able to control over 20 hours’ long power load shedding by constructing a number of dams on Pishin, Zhob and other rivers. Flood water of these rivers plays havoc in the province, however, construction of dams on these rivers may also resolve the water logging and lowering underground water problems because farmers and agricultures have to dig over 100 feet to get tube well water for irrigation. The lowered underground water level has also destroyed gardens, meadows as well as live stock in the province as only 15% land in Balochistan is being cultivated and province has to get live stock for meat purpose from Sindh and other provinces. In the past, Baloch traders had been major exporter of meat to Iran and Afghanistan. He pressed the federal government to announce this package in the upcoming financial budget for the year 2016-17 for early solution of problems of Balochistan.
To another question about measures taken by the federal government to check import of agricultural products from Iran, Senator Usman Kakar said that the federal government had not taken any step to provide relief to Baloch farmers and growers against the cheaper import of apple and other agricultural products from Iran. Resultantly, local grower is financially ruined because it is not possible for Baloch farmers to compete with Iranian imported products because the Iranian government provide subsidy in the form of free of cost electricity, fertilizers and other supportive measure to their farmers and growers. Resultantly, Iranian farmers and growers get agricultural produces almost free of cost, but on our side, our farmers and growers are bound to pay for each and every utility on higher rates, which make our products several times costlier than the imported ones.
Senator Usman Khan Kakar said that Finance Ministry and Planning Commission had not pursued progress on the projects adding the federal institutions were the executing agencies and were responsible for the unspent funds. For example, gas was discovered from Balochistan over six decades back but major area in the province is still lying without gas supply. Moreover, gas pressure in gasified areas in the province also remains low which irritate the consumers. Socially the Quetta, Ziarat, Kalat are major victims of low gas pressure. Therefore the federal government must take immediate steps to increase gas pressure. Similarly, the gas tariff was being increased regularly and bill sent to consumers despite nil gas pressure. Moreover, gas royalty to the tune of Rs800 billion must be paid to the province and then it should be left to it to arrange gas from Turkmenistan or any other country on its own.