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KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan has sought a report on illicit trade of smuggled cigarettes, costing Rs140 billion to the exchequer every year. Welcoming the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s attention and directives to the FBR and other relevant authorities to submit a report on the illicit trade of cigarettes in the country, Amna Saleem, representative of Stop Illegal Trade (SIT) said, “The realization and concern over illegal trade and smuggling at the top office is very inspiriting.

The Prime Minister’s will to eradicate illicit trade and smuggling from the country is promising and we are hopeful that it will deliver results.”

She said that while smuggling is a big challenge indeed, an even bigger challenge is the local manufacturing of non-compliant tax-evading cigarettes by companies which have elaborate setup schemes between KPK and AJK, they exploit the lack of enforcement against local non-compliant manufacturers by selling cigarettes for less than the government mandated pack price, a violation of the tax laws.

“Both smuggled and locally manufactured non-compliant illegal cigarettes are causing damage to the economy. Although the FBR has taken action against the movement of illegal cigarettes and confiscated consignments in different parts of the country, however, no action has been taken against the illegal cigarette manufacturing companies,” she opined.

Amna further said; while the Prime Minister has focused on smuggling alone, he should also focus on this home-grown mafia of illicit cigarette manufacturers, who continue to sell locally-manufactured tax-evading cigarettes.

Needless to mention, a report on cigarette smuggling was submitted in the cabinet meeting, which revealed that the national exchequer was losing Rs 140 billion every year due to smuggling of cigarettes that grabbed the attention of the PM on the issue, who was now seeking a report from the FBR.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021