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ISLAMABAD: A proposed law has empowered the law enforcement agencies and customs to impose heavy fines on smugglers of foreign currency, gold/silver, precious stones, sugar, onions, pulses, salt, potatoes, gur, rice, wheat/flour, chemical fertilisers, livestock, maize, edible oil, and therapeutic goods.

According to a brief of the Covid-19 (Prevention of Smuggling) Ordinance, 2020, presented before the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance, the purpose of this bill is to lay the Covid-19 (Prevention of Smuggling) Bill, 2020 before the National Assembly under Article 73 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973.

Since the bill's prime objective is imposition of heavy fines and pecuniary penalties to deter smuggling within the meaning of clause (2) of Article 73 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, the same is a money bill.

According to the FBR, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is likelihood that global supply chain of food commodities and essential articles may be affected and the international prices of these items may increase as compared to domestic market; creating an incentive for smuggling of the items available in domestic market to other countries.

In order to ensure availability of the food commodities and essential articles in the domestic market to all segments of society, there is a dire need to adopt measures to mitigate the adverse economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on a priority basis.

Besides strengthening the existing laws with respect to smuggling of food commodities and essential articles, there is also need for a stringent legislation to discourage smuggling and ensure their availability in the domestic market to the general public for their consumption in these difficult times.

The main features of the Covid-19 (Prevention of Smuggling) Ordinance 2020 are: a) Ordinance shall be applicable within a distance of five kilometers from any international border or within the premises of airport; b) Maximum/minimum imprisonment terms for smuggling of scheduled articles and currency; c) Powers to search and seize the scheduled articles; d) Auction of seized scheduled articles; cognizance of offence and arrest without warrant; f) Special courts for trial under the ordinance and reward for informers leading to successful conviction; h) Preventive detention on reasonable grounds.

The said Ordinance is applicable on the smuggling of following items: Foreign currency, gold/silver, precious stones, sugar, onions, pulses, salt, potatoes, gur, rice, wheat/flour, chemical fertilizers, livestock, maize, edible oil and therapeutic goods as defined in section 2 of the DRAP Act 2012.

The following law enforcement agencies have been notified to exercise the powers of officer conferred under section 2 (g) of the Ordinance within their jurisdictions: Frontier Corps Balochistan (North/South); Frontier Corps Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (North/South); Pakistan Rangers (Punjab); Pakistan Rangers (Sindh); officers of Pakistan Coast Guard; Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Police; Balochistan Police, Balochistan Levies; Inter-Services Intelligence; Military Intelligence; Intelligence Bureau; Federal Investigation Agency, and the Frontier Constabulary.

The bill seeks to curb the menace of smuggling of food and other essential commodities with exemplary punishments to create an effective deterrence in the emergent situation resulting from the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the FBR added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021