ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has extended anti-smuggling powers of Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Corps of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa up to June 30, 2019.
These forces would continue to conduct physically examine/search persons, screen or x-ray bodies of suspected persons, and arrest of smugglers without warrant under the Customs Act, 1969.
Sources in Pakistan Customs said these powers, which were expired on June 30, 2018, have been granted by the federal government to border security forces since 2010, considering the shortage of Customs staff and the lack of resources.
The border security forces have also been advised not to check bona fide passenger’s baggage and goods cleared from any Customs areas and also ensure that the functions should not be used to determine trade, imports and exports and to harass the general public, the sources said.
The FBR had given ample anti-smuggling powers to law enforcement through SRO 1090(I)/2010 in 2010. The FBR has issued SRO 861(I)/2018 to extend time period up to 2019 for anti-smuggling powers of law enforcement agencies.
According to the notification, the Board has entrusted to the officers of the Pakistan Rangers, Frontier Corps operating within their respective jurisdictions, the functions of officers of customs under the provisions of the Customs Act. The powers and jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies showed that the anti-smuggling functions shall be limited within 20 kilometres of the international borders. The functions shall exclude the city municipal limits, customs areas, customs stations, ports, borders customs stations, international airports and bonded warehouses. The Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Corps would not be empowered to check any bonafide passenger’s baggage and goods cleared from any customs area.
The FBR has directed these law enforcement agencies to exercise due care and ensure that these functions are not used to the detriment of trade, imports and exports and to harass the general public, and the seized goods shall be dealt with under the relevant provisions of the Customs Act, 1969.
The officers not below the rank of non-commissioned officer within their respective jurisdictions would have the authority to exercise powers of sections 158; 160(1) and (2); 168(1) and (3); 172(1) and 174 of the Customs Act, 1969. These officials would have the power to search on reasonable ground. The appropriate officer may search a person, if he has reason to believe that such person is carrying smuggled platinum, any radioactive mineral, gold, silver or precious stones, manufactures of platinum, any radioactive mineral, gold, silver or precious stones, or currency, or any other goods or class of goods notified by federal government in the official Gazette.
These officials will also have powers to screen or x-ray bodies of suspected persons for detecting secreted goods. The officers not below the rank of junior commissioned officer within their respective jurisdictions would be empowered to use powers of sections 161(3), (4), (5), (6) and (7); 165(1) and 166 of the Customs Act. They can also exercise powers to arrest the persons involved in smuggling. Every person arrested shall be taken forthwith before the nearest officer of customs authorized by the Collector of Customs to deal with such cases.
They may, during the course of an inquiry in connection with the smuggling of any goods, require any person to produce or deliver any document or thing to such officer and examine any person acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case.
The officers not below the rank of junior commissioned officer would be empowered to use powers to summon persons to present evidence and produce documents or things. Any gazetted officer of customs shall have power to summon any person whose attendance he considers necessary either to give evidence or to produce document or any other thing in any inquiry which such officer is making.
The commissioned officers within their respective jurisdictions could exercise powers of sections 159(2), 160(6) and 163(1) and (4) of the Customs Act, 1969. These officials would have the authority to search and arrest smugglers without warrant. They can enter and search without warrant any premises to make an arrest to seize any goods which are reasonably suspected under the said section of Customs Act.
The commandant within his jurisdiction has the authority to exercise powers of section 157(2) of the Customs Act, 1969. They would be empowered to confiscate any goods under Customs Act which include any package in which they are found, and all other contents thereof.