News Analysis |
In what is being coined as a bid to throw a blanket over the ever-growing number of Non-Custom Paid (NCP) vehicles, the Excise and Taxation Department Islamabad has downed the link to access its online vehicle verification system, causing distress to the general public.
The online vehicle verification system had been hoisted by the department in early 2015 and the portal allowed citizens to view basic credentials of a vehicle such as registered owner, engine, and chassis numbers, which had previously been an inquiry deemed too time-consuming.
Among a chain of unfortunate events, the facility had been shut down without any specific reasons being narrated to the public since the first week of August, 2017, when a section of the media reported that a number of vehicles used by Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter of ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, were “non-custom paid and she was spotted using some cars with fake number plates”.
In the year 2014, the FBR had tasked the Directorate of Post-Clearance Audit (Customs) to carry out the audit of 50,876 vehicles, which were registered under the tax amnesty scheme.
It was reported in July 2017 when Maryam Nawaz arrived at the judicial academy to appear before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on a car bearing identification number SN-777 registered as Honda CG-125 in the name of a citizen, Muhammad Daud. Similarly, the number plates of two other vehicles, which were part of her motorcade, were allegedly found bearing fake number plates. For instance, a BMW bearing identification number BC-348 was registered as Honda Civic-Model 2014 with the ownership of Faysal Bank while another Land Cruiser in the motorcade bearing registration number CS-787 was registered as Toyota Axio-Model 2007 owned by Imran Maqbool.
Although when discussions ensued, some analysts also suggested that this may be due to security concerns and that high profile cars always have various identifications to throw off any untoward planning. Nevertheless, the aforementioned scandal forced the Excise Department to stop the system to avoid further embarrassment.
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A former customs official spoke to GVS: “There have been various high profile apprehensions of NCP’s but no single case has ever gone on to be traced back to its owner. A large number of luxury cars being driven in the city are NCP vehicles. These people are powerful and linked up.
It was reported in July 2017 when Maryam Nawaz arrived at the judicial academy to appear before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on a car bearing identification number SN-777 registered as Honda CG-125 in the name of a citizen, Muhammad Daud.
They don’t take very kindly to their illicit activities being hurdled. Maryam’s entourage, if those were in fact non custom paid vehicles, were a small part of a very large pool” When contacted, Excise and Taxation Department Director Mariam Mumtaz cited security issues behind the closure of system and said: “The data of vehicles was being used by criminals to cheat the general public while some security concerns conveyed by law enforcement agencies had also led to stop the online verification.”
GVS spoke to a number of citizens of Islamabad visiting the Excise office in I-9 regarding this move. The citizens issued strong criticism on this decision of the department and considered it ‘a move to please the powerful 2 percent”.
As many as 2,895 vehicles were cleared at lower duty by 11 Model Customs Collectorates (MCCs) under the smuggled vehicles amnesty scheme-2013. The amnesty scheme had been termed widely as a clandestine method to legitimize non-custom paid vehicles.
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In the year 2014, the FBR had tasked the Directorate of Post-Clearance Audit (Customs) to carry out the audit of 50,876 vehicles, which were registered under the tax amnesty scheme. Meanwhile, in Punjab, IT board PITB, ET&NCD launched an SMS vehicle verification service in October; a month after the federal service went down.
The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), in collaboration with the Excise, Taxation, and Narcotics Control Department (ET&NCD) has launched a vehicle verification service in Punjab that can be availed by sending the registration number of the vehicle through an SMS to 8785. An automated response will provide ownership details of motor vehicles registered across Punjab.
A large number of luxury cars being driven in the city are NCP vehicles. These people are powerful and linked up.
Dr. Umar Saif, the founding Vice Chancellor of Information Technology University (ITU), PITB chairman and advisor to the Punjab CM, in a message said that the joint efforts of the PITB and ET & NCD would facilitate people through smartphones to get authentic information online and without having to visit the respective department 24/7, reported a publication.
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The service will aid in the purchasing and selling of vehicles to vendors and buyers. It will also help law enforcement in the quick apprehension of theft and for security checks.