PM warns crackdown on ‘smuggling industry’ as Torkham border reopens after 9 days

Celina Ali

Islamabad: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Friday warned a consistent crackdown against illegal trade and said an effective management plan was being implemented to control cross-border smuggling. “We have zero tolerance for those involved in the ‘smuggling industry’ and the law will take its course,” he said at a press conference held at the PM House.

The prime minister’s statement came in response to a question on Pakistan’s steps to control cross-border smuggling as the Torkham border with Afghanistan reopened this morning after nine days. Kakar said detailed deliberations were held on the Afghan transit trade and the reopening of Torkham border.

The commerce ministry has taken a lead along with border management authorities including customs in revising the policy to allow or restrict the trade items, he said. He dismissed the impression that checking on smuggling would deny a source of livelihood to the locals residing along the bordering areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

The people of these provinces deserve a correct and healthy environment of trade, not smuggling, he said. Asked about the involvement of Afghan refugees involved in cross-border smuggling, Kakar said an effective policy in this regard had been agreed upon.

He categorized the Afghans living in Pakistan into three classes including those registered with the government, aliens with no justification to reside, and those with identity theft. “We will push the [Afghan] aliens back to their country and no one without the visa regime will be allowed to live here,” he said.

He regretted that the previous lenient approach in this regard resulted in various social evils. He also pointed out the risk of smuggling leading to the strengthening of terrorist outfits and non-state actors. “Non-state actors take their space under dysfunctional setup and we are determined to target them,” he said, terming counter-terrorism a priority for the caretaker government.

He mentioned that the apex committee was working with a focused approach on the tactical and strategic angles of the newly emerging terror threats. The prime minister said the priority of the caretaker government was to provide the inflation-hit people relief through administrative measures. “We want to assure the people of the country that the caretaker government, whether it stays in office either for one or one-and-a-half months, will prove effective in its governance,” he said.

He mentioned chairing a meeting this morning that discussed the monitoring, implementation, and future strategy over the decisions taken a week ago on smuggling, power theft, and hoarding. Asked about the hike in petroleum prices thrice during the tenure of the caretaker government, he said the matter was beyond domestic control and was linked to the global increase.

He mentioned that the government was focusing on providing relief by improving the approach of governance. He hinted at announcing in the near future the easy installments for electricity consumers with up to 200 units of electricity usage.

To a question on the nexus of politicians and public officials involved in misappropriation, he said, “We have to break this cycle on priority to get effective results followed by stern action against the responsible ones.” “We will take action on adopting a due process without fear and favour, and will take them to the court of law,” he said.

On the political alignment of Fawad Hasan Fawad and Ahad Cheema who were included in the caretaker setup, Kakar said he considered them both “capable and integrated individuals of society with their prime identity as former civil servants”. “I don’t think they have ever been the members or office-holders of any political party,” he said. Kakar said the government believed in the freedom of media and rejected the notion of stifling it. “A normal media ecosystem is in place and there is no bar on the outlets, even on airing criticism on the caretaker government,” he said.