The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is reported to have started blocking the cargo clearance of defaulting Afghan importers and licenses of their clearing agents to ensure compliance of submission of duplicate Goods Declarations (GD) along with original Afghan customs duty documents. According to sources, the board had given a deadline of August 31 last year to defaulting Afghan importers to submit relevant documents by September 10 last year.
The sources said that although the board had extended the deadline by six months after reservations were expressed by stakeholders, the board''s directives are yet to be complied with. Moreover, the sources said the customs department, which had till now issued a single notice in this regard, was also planning to take action against some importers and three more clearing agents.
Meanwhile, clearing agents criticised the decision, saying that when the Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) was signed in 2010, the stakeholders had been ignored. They said that the agreement disregarded ground realities. They said as many as 200 clearing agents were involved in clearance of both commercial and non-commercial Afghan transit shipments, adding that the action might put clearance of all transit consignments in jeopardy.
They said the requirement of submitting duplicate GDs along with duly signed and stamped originals of Afghan customs duty receipts, along with the name and designation of Afghan customs officials from importer and clearing agents was impossible. Terming the requirement unreasonable, they said that since the suspension of all Afghan transit consignments in retaliation against Nato air strike on Salala border post, government policies remained inconsistent that led to drafting of complex procedures by the FBR. As a result, they said, transit cargoes, including Nato and Isaf shipments and US military cargoes had shrunk to just five percent of the original volume and rest of the transit traffic had been shifted to Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, they maintained.
Officials said that under Rule 621 of APTTA Rules 2011 Afghan importers were required to submit duplicate copies of Goods Declarations (GDs) and Afghan customs GDs cross referenced with Pakistan''s GDs within 60 days of the date of discharge of cargoes from the port, providing them ample time to get insurance guarantees back from customs authorities, the said documents were not being submitted, despite the expiry of the deadline. Therefore, the FBR was within its rights to block further clearances of defaulting Afghan importers. Meanwhile, sources accused the customs department of restricting 10 major insurance firms to facilitate a single insurance company, patronised by a federal minister. They said that these major insurance companies had been restrained from offering transit insurance facility (TIF), claiming these firms were overstepping their insurance limits.
They said the customs department was unduly favouring a single insurance company for TIF and its sister-transport company for transiting cargoes. Moreover, they said that these companies were earlier giving TIF at just 0.45 percent premium. However, the ''favoured'' insurance company was at present charging 0.90 percent premium on all consignments.