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Monday, July 15, 2024

Border Monitoring Initiative: Pakistan to Go Digital to Curb Smuggling

Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed the concerned authorities to undertake swift measures to curb smuggling on the border with strict disciplinary actions. The constitution of multiple committees will aid Pakistan in curbing losses caused by smuggling.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf led government has decided to establish tech-savvy battalions of paramilitary forces and customs officials as part of the Border Monitoring Initiative (BMI), worth billions of rupees, to control cross-border smuggling, which has inflicted the national exchequer with massive losses.

A senior official of the incumbent government, speaking to the media, said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved the immediate hiring of over 2,000 officials, alongside establishing two additional battalions of the Gilgit Baltistan Scouts and Pakistan Coast Guards. These recruitments will be conducted with strict security clearance by the concerned security agencies.

Pakistan to Curb Smuggling

Reports reveal that Pakistan Customs has been tasked with the lead role for an early period of two years, and for this purpose, the body will be refurbished with modern gadgets, innovative tools, logistic support, weaponry and more.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed relevant authorities to immediately establish a directorate general of law and prosecutions to facilitate the activities of customs.

Officers and officials of the Pakistan Customs who lose their lives in the line of duty will now be provided the benefits of the Shuhada package, which provides financial compensation to the families of police and paramilitary personnel.

Under the Border Monitoring Initiative (BMI), the government intends to refurbish the technological infrastructure and border monitoring facilities. The project is expected to cost more than Rs52 billion for monitoring in Balochistan alone, where the armed forces will continue to play a dominating role.

Read more: SC Orders the Establishment of Buffer Zones in Sensitive Border Areas

Earlier, the Prime Minister had ordered the constitution of an Anti-Smuggling Steering Committee (ASSC). During a recently held meeting of the ASSC, the Prime Minister established another committee, including his Adviser on Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Chairman Federal Board of Revenue Shabbar Zaidi and Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood.

This committee has been directed to establish multiple crossing-point task forces in a period of three to six months, and these task forces must be functional at a divisional, provincial and national level. As per the directions of the Premier, these committees must include senior representatives from the ministries of interior, commerce, maritime affairs, narcotics control, law and justice, and defense, and the Chief Ministries, alongside intelligence agencies.

Border Monitoring Initiative (BMI)

In order to fulfill the logistics and infrastructural requirements of the BMI, the ASSC has approved the procurement of motorbikes, double-cabin vehicles, coasters, bulletproof jackets, high-tech weapons, sniffer dogs and various other equipment.

The budget has been strengthened with special allocations in the federal budget for the year 2020-21, and the FBR has been directed to spearhead the project in preparations, and secure the budget allocations after consultations with the ministries of finance and interior, and the cabinet division.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has also directed the relevant authorities to adopt proactive measures against corrupt practices and lack of disciplinary actions. The relevant ministries and agencies have been directed to take administrative and disciplinary action against all officials and personnel involved in anti-smuggling activities.

The Prime Minister was quoted as saying, “Actions must be taken against all supervisory officers if they fail to monitor or prevent their subordinates responsible for corruption.” All agencies have also been ordered to provide performance-based rewards and incentives for their personnel.

The ministries of commerce and defense have been directed to reexamine the modalities of the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement.

It has been agreed upon that anti-smuggling and trade data will be integrated with a centralized database within six-nine months. Pakistan Customs has been directed to create a confiscation portal that provides complete information to the authorities responsible for monitoring.

The ministries of commerce and defense have been directed to reexamine the modalities of the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement. The ministries and provincial governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have been ordered to implement the action plan for the economic development of border areas.

Read more: Pakistan’s Border Trade Issues Reducing its GDP Potential

The federal and provincial governments will prioritize the financial support for the border areas under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), and the annual development plans (ADPs). The army will take the lead role in Balochistan, while the KP government will play a major role in developing the border areas.

The estimated total expense of selective measures taken in line with the plan for the recently merged districts of KP is Rs2.25 billion, which will be added to the Tribal Decade Strategy, approved by the federal and provincial governments, at an estimated worth of around Rs1 trillion.

The financial estimates for the initiatives taken for the BMI in Balochistan were around Rs53 billion, however, due to the financial challenges, the spending has been spread over three to five years. The government has prioritized a financial overlay of Rs23 billion for the regions of Zhob and Mand for innovative border monitoring to curb down smuggling.

Rs. 7 billion have been allocated for the BMI in the Dalbandin region, Rs.10 billion for Taftan, and Rs. 12 billion for the remaining regions of Balochistan. The ministries of defense and maritime affairs have been ordered to undertake a wide-ranging survey of the coastal areas within six months.

Read more: Top government officials involved in smuggling non-custom-paid vehicles

The Premier has ordered sequential control over the smuggling of Iranian oil into Pakistan, with strict directives that “concerned authorities must ensure that law enforcement agencies are not a party to smuggling.”