ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is making preparations for responding to reservations of Afghan business community on customs related procedures adopted by FBR recently.
These issues are very likely to be raised by Afghan authorities with Finance Minister and Chairman FBR at the sideline discussions to be held during upcoming visit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to Pakistan. In February this year, FBR through SRO S.R.O.121 (I)/2014, amended Customs Rules, 2001, to issue the procedure of the “Transit under Customs Computerised System” covering Afghan commercial cargo imported through Karachi Port, Port Muhammad Bin Qasim, Gwadar Port or Sost; Afghan commercial cargo from Afghanistan to India through Wagha; Afghan commercial cargo from Afghanistan to other countries; and non-commercial cargo.
Ashraf Ghani is likely to visit Pakistan along with key officials from Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Afghanistan and a high-powered delegation of comprising on business representatives. Afghan business community’s representative bodies had been expressing their grave concerns on procedures adopted by FBR for Afghanistan bound goods. A well placed source at FBR told this scribe here on Wednesday that in response to the past practices, FBR’s concerned departments were also making preparations to respond concerns of Afghan side on Customs procedures namely the S.R.O.121(I)/2014. “Afghan side is likely to demand withdrawal of the said for withdrawal of Standing Order issued by the Customs House, Quetta,” the source said adding that as per the said SRO all Bill of Lading (Bilti) for all goods destined to Afghanistan either at Beleeli or Sheela Bagh check posts before entering into Chaman were required to be stamped.
“This practice has significantly discouraged the local traders of Ch man to carry out exports to Afghanistan legally and would have detrimental effects on the overall trade quantum specifically through Chaman,” the source added saying that Afghanistan had also raised this matter at the inter-ministerial committee meeting of Ministry of Commerce for bilateral and Afghan transit trade in September this year.
The source said that keeping in view significant positive confidence building measures taken up by Governments of both the countries, it was vital that business community across the borders should be facilitated to strengthen the bilateral ties that would further result in establishment of formidable regional trading block. The source said that both the countries could also facilitate each other’s business community by establishing Custom Union which would ease smooth and frictionless transportation of commodities across the borders and the subsidiary issues related with the collection mechanism, tax and tariff would be automatically removed.
The source said that the FBR had stance on the said SRO that Afghan importer of goods or his authorised Customs agents, brokers or transport operators in Pakistan shall furnish financial security in the form of Insurance Guarantee, for goods destined for Afghanistan, from an insurance company. This would be done following criteria prescribed by the Directorate General of Transit Trade, on the prescribed format or any other form prescribed by the Board which shall be valid for at least one year and shall be en-cashable in Pakistan, for ensuring the fulfilment of any obligation arising out of Customs transit operation between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Moreover, the FBR had also said in the past that a Liaison Committee, recommended by the third APTTCA meeting, could not be constituted by the FBR to work on removing the hurdles faced by Afghan importers in clearance of their consignments at Karachi Port. Representative of FBR responded that this indelible expression is not supposed to be marked on each and every item rather it has to be marked on a packet or package by the exporters,” the source added
The source said that FBR had also recommended to the Finance Ministry that liaison be established with Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) to overcome trade irritant of certificate from Afghan Customs Clearance Document (ACCD), which document was required to be obtained from Afghan authorities upon arrival of exported goods in Afghanistan by Pakistani exporters to claim duty drawback.