KARACHI: Three employees of NBP Customs House Branch tested positive for Covid-19 and the branch remained closed on 27th April 2020 for collection of duties and taxes. NBP President was alerted several times by different bodies of traders and customs agents including KCAA and FPCCI, but he did not implement social distancing measures at the branch. Customs Today also covered this issue and reported about health risk of large number of gatherings outside and inside the branch amid spread of Coronavirus in the Customs House but NBP President Arif Usmani did not pay any heed to the timely reporting and warning by Customs Today.
Customs Today reported early 9am on 22 April about huge rush of customs officials, agents and public at Customs House Karachi and inside the NBP Customs House Branch even during Covid-19 disaster, putting lives of the people at risk. After directives issued by the high-ups and the govt departments, attendance at Customs House Karachi should have been kept minimal for 4-6 weeks to avoid further spread of Coronavirus among Customs officials, traders, agents and bank employees who are lifeline of the economic activity in the country.
After Customs Today news got viral on social media and reached to Customs Enforcement and Preventive high-ups in the Customs House on 22 April, they immediately took action and enforced proper measures and social distancing in the building and the bank. After 11am, there were proper queues of people outside and inside the NBP branch, Customs House Karachi. But within those two hours, deadly Coronavirus targeted three employees of the NBP, only due to non-serious attitude of the NBP high-ups and its president Arif Usmani. Still results of others employees are yet to come on 28th April 2020.
Even FPCCI sent a letter on 18th March 2020 to President & Chief Executive Officer of the NBP to authorize more branches to collect duty and taxes to avoid spreading of Coronavirus. But NBP President did not give any relief to the traders’ community and now he has put lives of all the people visiting on single branch of NBP Customs House at risk. Sources said that there were talks about possible action against the NBP president for his non-serious attitude towards implementing social distancing measures in the bank.
FPCCI Vice President Khurram Aijaz questioned ‘how it is possible to maintain social distancing if only one branch is designated to collect duty and taxes of all cargo arriving at Karachi sea port. There are about 4000 to 5000 transactions in a day but NBP gathers thousands of people in one branch so the branch remains at high risk. The only solution is to allow maximum number of branches to collect taxes. It is not a difficult task’.
Arif Usmani joined NBP as President & CEO on 12th Feb 2019. Usmani started his career with Citi Pakistan in 1981 in the Corporate Banking Group. From 1989 to 1994, he was on deputation from Citi with Saudi Arabia’s second largest bank SAMBA in Riyadh. In 1994, Usmani held a number of critical positions in different countries including Hong Kong and Singapore. In 2012 Usmani left Citi and was appointed as Group Head for Wholesale Banking at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank. In 2017, Usmani joined Mashreq Bank in Dubai as Chief Risk Officer. Usmani holds a First Class BSc (Hons) degree from Imperial College, University of London and is also an Associate of the Royal College of Science (ARCS).
Earlier, a PRAL employee Imran Khan tested positive for CoronaVirus and all officials of Customs House Karachi were advised to get tested for Coronavirus. But a huge rush was seen in the Customs House Karachi, putting the lives of customs officials, importers and customs clearing agents at risk.
On the other hand, Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA) President Muhammad Yahya, General Secretary Muhammad Aamir & Joint Secretary Zahid Bashir Chaudhary advised their members to maintain all precautionary measures during these ongoing critical times due to spread of COVID-19 countrywide. Keeping in view the ongoing automation, reforms & changes, and to extend maximum facilitation to trade, we emphasize our valued members to pay their duties and taxes electronically On-Line through E-Payment / PSID option by adopting world advancement and modern era of technology, despite of living in the stone age. We believe that this will definitely avoid the unnecessary human interaction during these critical times.
With the joint efforts of KCAA & FPCCI, the high officials of NBP including Group Head Operations visited NBP Customs House Branch and held a meeting at KCAA Camp Office to discuss the working of the branch. It was agreed that NBP Customs House branch will be open on Saturday as well for customs duty collection and timings for collection have also been extended till 6pm from Monday to Saturday excluding Friday and till 4pm on Friday before Ramazan.
Earlier, a PRAL employee Imran Khan tested positive for CoronaVirus recently and all officials of Customs House Karachi were advised to get tested for Coronavirus. Health department after closing entire Customs House immediately started fumigation but only after few days, a huge rush was seen early this morning in the Customs House Karachi, putting the lives of customs officials, importers and customs clearing agents at risk.
Sources told that all officials were advised to work online from their homes but junior officers did not implement the directives of senior customs officials in letter and spirit.
It is pertinent to mention here that Directorate Customs Investigation and Intelligence (I&I) Anti-Smuggling superintendent Younis Qadri was tested positive for COVID-19 recently and admitted to 1000-bed quarantine hospital established at the Expo Centre Lahore. Similarly, a female employee working in Large Taxpayer Unit (LTU) Islamabad was also found Covid-19 positive after her test.