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KARACHI: The Competition Commission of Pakistan (the "Commission") on November 19 conducted a search of the offices of some Members of All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association ("APCMA") at Karachi. A similar search was previously conducted on 24th September 2020 at the office of APCMA and a Member's office at Lahore.

The said searches are being conducted by the Commission despite the APCMA Members having always cooperated with the Commission in providing all information and documents as requested by them.

Till this date the APCMA Members are unaware of the outcome of any investigation or review of all the documents and information gathered by the Commission during the last one year. Despite fully co-operating with the Commission, the harassment of APCMA Members and their employees continues.

The searches of APCMA Members' office at Lahore and Karachi, by the Commission, have been conducted in blatant violation of the law and in excess of the mandate given to the Commission and its officers as per law. The Commission illegally and unlawfully, with the support of local police, sealed the premises of APCMA Members' office while conducting the searches and restricted the movement of employees even though no resistance of any sort was put up by the representatives of the said Members.

The Commission and its authorized officers, during the search also impounded items, including personal belongings of the employees, for which they had no express authority under the law or through the authorization memo provided to the Members. The Officers of the Commission were repeatedly requested to exercise their powers strictly as per law; however, the Members' representatives were continuously harassed and threatened with arrest and imprisonment for interference in official duties.

Such blatantly illegal and unlawful activities on part of the Commission and its Authorized Officers have severely damaged the confidence of shareholders of the APCMA Members, a large number of whom are foreign investors. Such high-handedness has also damaged the confidence of the business community in general and is discouraging for making investments in the Country.

The Commission, as per various media reports and its official statement dated 19th November 2020, is apparently conducting an enquiry into the alleged increase of cement prices during the month of April 2020. It is surprising that during this period i.e. 4th Quarter FY 2019-20, COVID-19 was at its peak in Pakistan and the entire country was observing a complete lockdown. Business activity during this period was almost negligible and all industries including cement were incurring huge losses. Investigating such a period raises serious doubts about the intent and purpose of the inquiry being conducted by the Commission.

The APCMA and its Members have always believed in and strived for compliance with all applicable laws while conducting their businesses. However, any illegal act and open violation of the law by a federal agency shall always be highlighted. The right to dignity and due process of the Members of APCMA and their employees, as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan, is inviolable. It is expedient that all bodies and agencies, while discharging their duties and exercising their powers, operate within the four corners of the law.-PR

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020