ISLAMABAD: The Govt is trying to empower anti-smuggling and intelligence agencies of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to enforce Prevention of Smuggling Ordinance 2020 within the country for checking smuggling of foreign currency, gold, sliver, sugar, onion, rice, pulses, wheat, flour potatoes, wheat, flour, life stock and edible oil through routes not declared in Customs Act, 1969.
According to sources, the agencies’ powers are not limited to border areas, but they can exercise powers under the Prevention of Smuggling Ordinance 2020 anywhere in the country including any city or area within Pakistan.
The FBR was empowered to extend anti-smuggling powers to law enforcement agencies including Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Corps of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (North/South), including tribal areas. Last notification i.e. SRO 861(I)/2018 was issued by the FBR to extend time period up to 2019 for anti-smuggling powers of law enforcement agencies. The SRO and anti-smuggling powers to law enforcement agencies expired on June 30, 2019.
The Board had entrusted to the officers of the Pakistan Rangers, Frontier Corps operating within their respective jurisdictions, the functions of officers of customs under the provisions of the Customs Act. The powers and jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies showed that the anti-smuggling functions were limited within 20 kilometres of the international borders excluding the city municipal limits, customs areas, customs stations, ports, borders customs stations, international airports and bonded warehouses. The Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Corps were not be empowered to check any bonafide passenger’s baggage and goods cleared from any customs area.
Now, under the draft Prevention of Smuggling Ordinance 2020, the Assistant Collector of Customs or any other intelligence agency notified by the FBR including security and intelligence agencies have the power to implement the Ordinance while the district administration can report any matter to the Customs Department and the officials who are under obligation to take action against smugglers.
The FBR or other agencies can also take action against any aider, abettor, beneficiary, agent, carrier or a person running the network to cross the border. The powers of the Ordinance can be exercised by Police, Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Coast Guards, Intelligence Bureau, Frontier Constabulary, Frontier Corps and Rangers. These agencies can exercise anti-smuggling powers in areas and routes not declared in Customs Act, 1969.
Under section 105 of the Customs Act, if the federal government is of the opinion that warehoused goods of any specified description are likely to be smuggled back into Pakistan, it may, by notification in the official Gazette, direct that such goods shall not be exported to any place outside Pakistan without payment of duty or allow them to be exported subject to such restrictions and conditions as may be specified in the notification.
The summary trial of smugglers would be carried out through special courts appointed by the federal government in consultation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan. The special courts can grant punishment up to 14 years to the smugglers.