SYED MOHAMMAD TAHIR
LAHORE: There is no doubt that newly-elected PML-N government’s stalwarts have decided to enhance bilateral trade relation with India and to boost trade up to $5 billion within next two years.
The stakeholders including government officials, exporters and importers should have complete faith upon Customs officials that Wagha Trade Complex has sufficient potential to handle more than 100 times existing trade volume. At this moment, nearly 150 Pakistani trucks are loading and off-loading different items at Bab-e-Tijarat Zero Line for India. Customs Department is also going to introduce another scanner to thoroughly scrutinise goods vehicles for which government has already granted permission and allocated funds.
These views were expressed by Wagha Customs Additional Collector Noureen Ahmad Tarar while giving exclusive interview to Customs Today’s team at his office.
Noureen Tarar further said that although all economic indicators are showing that previous governments could not achieve revenue collection and economic growth targets but luckily Customs department has not only achieved its target but in current fiscal year this department has deposited more cash than target in national kitty. She further elaborated that until Sales Tax Department was working under Customs Department, it was meeting its revenue targets because of special planning and efforts of Customs Department’s officials. Besides this, there were no major scams in Sales Tax Department. But unfortunately since government had separated Sales Tax Department from Customs, its revenue collection volume has decreased while on the other hand, different mega scandals are now emerging day after day.
While answering a query, she said that June, July are considered to be the slowest months for Wagha trade, so just from 120 to 150 trucks are being used to load/off-load items that have been traded between India and Pakistan at Wagha Zero Line, adding that Pakistan is currently importing Soyabean, tomato, mix vegetable, carbon dioxide liquid and cabbage from India while exporting cement, gypsum, dry dates, salt, sugar, H2O2, seed, plastic scrap and furniture to India.
The disgruntled and disappointed Noureen Tarar complained that in previous government era, a large number of FBR officials drew their handsome salaries while staying at their respective homes because perhaps this country does not want honest and competent officers to run the affairs of government. Only those corrupt officials get space to grow in their respective departments who are involved in plundering national kitty and harming national interests at their will.
She also disliked the idea that the new incumbent government of Mian Nawaz Sharif is also going to International Monetary Fund (IMF) for further loan in a bid to repay their debt services, adding that instead newly-elected government should act upon its party manifesto and endeavour to break begging bowl and repay loans to global lender agencies through their own resources. She suggested that government should try to collect revenue by imposing agri and other taxes to run the affairs of government, adding that Customs officers are not policymakers, they are just catalysts to implement the policies carved out by government in letter and spirit.
Additional Collector Noureen Tarar further said that she is spending her last day here at Wagha Customs office as her department has sponsored her to get professional education from Australia for two years adding that she is ready to fly with her family to Australia.
Noureen Tarar further said that there is a wrong perception that all Customs officials are corrupt. Appreciating the efforts of Customs Today for dispelling this impression among masses, she further said that Customs officials from top to bottom have also their grievances which need to be redressed on war footing. She said that in Lahore Customs officials haven’t any residential colony.
Their hands have been tied up and they cannot take action against influential and unlawful importers, adding that percentage of Customs duties on almost all imported items are determined in Customs law but still influential traders try to evade these taxes and compel Customs officials to act upon according to their will, she added. She said that import invoices are being made in Gulberg fraudulently and are not coming from China and other countries. Government should take steps to curb these illegal activities so that a conducive and friendly environment for traders could be created in the country so that they could deposit their duties in national kitty and resultantly Pakistan could be put on the track of prosperity and progress, she concluded.