By Hamid Khan Wazir
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The National Assembly was told that the federal government is working on the concept of establishing the Joint Border Trade Market (JBTM) along the western border with Afghanistan and Iran.
In a written reply to a question by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Naureen Farooq Ibrahim, the Minister for Finance and Revenue Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh told the House on Monday that the JBTM concept was approved by Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Anti-Smuggling Steering Committee.
The minister told that the concept of JBTM will ensure 16 sustenance of the local population by providing frequently traded goods without duty/taxes. This initiative will result in community engagement and help in curbing the menace of smuggling on the border.
The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has extended full support to establish the JBTM and completed the tasks assigned to it by providing detailed working of concession/exemptions on tariff and other duty taxes on the approved list of items.
In total 16 JBTMs will be established along the western border. Initially, three pilot projects 01 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at Shaheedano Dand and 02 in Balochistan at Gabd and Mand will be made operational in early 2021.
The FBR has also conveyed its concurrence to revise MoUs between Afghanistan and Pakistan shared for establishing the Joint Border Trade Markets.
Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh further told that the efforts are being made to rein in the smuggling of non-customs paid items in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
As a result of an effective counter-smuggling strategy, Pakistan Customs has seized goods worth Rs 36,570 million in the year 2019-20 as compared to the corresponding period 2018-19 worth Rs 25,291 million recording an increase of 44.59%.
In the current financial year (till January 16, 2021), Pakistan Customs has made the seizure of goods worth Rs 33,039 million as compared to Rs 24,921 million in 2019-2020 (till January 16, 2020) which is a 33% increase.
It was further informed that Pakistan Customs has no presence in border areas except notified custom stations due to the shortage of human resource. The anti-smuggling powers have been delegated to Frontier Corps KP (North/South) under section 6 of the Customs Act, 1969 vide SRO 122(I)/2020 dated 21-02-2020.