PM vows no laxity to curb smuggling

By Shakeel Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday resolved that the government would neither show any laxity nor make any compromise in its ongoing operation against smuggling owing to its two-pronged adverse economic impacts.
Chairing a meeting to discuss the anti-smuggling measures and prices of daily use items, the prime minister said the smuggling was bane to the national economy for causing food insecurity and inflicting irreparable loss to the local industry, a PM Office statement said.
Industries Minister Hammad Azhar, National Food Security Minister Fakhar Imam, Finance Advisor Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Commerce Advisor Abdul Razzak Dawood, federal secretaries of interior, finance and food security, FBR Chairman, provincial chief secretaries, home secretaries and IG police attended the meeting.
The meeting was told that an ordinance had been promulgated to further strengthen the existing anti-smuggling law and strictly handle the elements involved in smuggling of currency and essential items.
Moreover, the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) have been empowered to act against smugglers at the airports as well as within five kilometers of the borders. The LEAs have also been given the powers to take such people into custody. Moreover, the ordinance would ensure a better coordination among the district administration, custom officials, secret agencies and LEAs.
The chairman FBR and provincial chief secretaries apprised the meeting on the measures taken so far for enforcement of anti-smuggling ordinance.
The prime minister directed all the departments concerned to submit fortnightly report on the actions against smuggling and the people involved in the offense. The provincial chief secretaries briefed the prime minister about the wheat crop and harvesting, prices of the essential commodities and the steps taken to reduce their rates. The provincial governments also presented a report to prime minister on action against the hoarders and profiteers.
The prime minister directed the provincial administrations to pass on the impact of the reduced oil prices to the masses for providing them relief. Chairing a meeting to review the measures the government has so far taken to check smuggling and overpricing of essential items in the country, Prime Minister Imran Khan stated on Thursday no compromise will be made in action against smuggling.
Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar, Food Security and Research Minister Syed Fakhar Imam, Adviser to the PM on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and relevant officials were in attendance in the meeting. Over the course of the meeting, the premier was informed that an ordinance has been promulgated to curb smuggling of basic food items and currency as it empowers law enforcement agencies to take action against such illegal activities at the country’s airports and frontiers.
Under the new law, the LEAs have powers to take elements involved in smuggling into protective custody as coordination among the district administrations, customs officials and spy agencies has improved.
The prime minister directed all departments concerned to submit a fortnightly report on actions they take against smuggling and the people involved in smuggling. He maintained smuggling is an ulcer for the country’s economy. He noted smuggling poses risk to food security and inflicts an irreparable loss on the country’s industrial sector.
Prime Minister Khan said the government’s objective to bring down prices of petroleum products was to provide relief to the masses. He said the benefit of reduction in fuel prices must trickle down to people. Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday chaired a meeting of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) chief ministers via video link to review coronavirus situation. Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Affairs Dr Zafar Mirza briefed the meeting on the virus statistics, its spread in the hotspots, rate of testing and availability of medical facilities to cater the virus patients.
The meeting was also briefed over availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the doctors and paramedics and measures needed to improve health facilities in both the provinces. Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that they had to create balance between avoiding hunger and coronavirus. “Lockdown is only a temporary measure to avoid coronavirus not a cure of it,” he said adding that they had to take decisions keeping in view their ground realities.
He said that the shutdown of business has caused unbearable losses to the country’s economy. Terming coronavirus a reality, Imran Khan stressed upon the masses to adopt preventive measures to avoid it. “We had to implement the devised standard operating procedures (SOPs) at all cost,” he said while stressing upon the need to launch awareness campaign among masses to adopt the preventive measures. He further directed the provincial authorities to ensure that police treat the masses in a friendly manner during lockdown.