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ISLAMABAD: Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Member Customs (Operations), Mukarram Jan Ansari categorically said Thursday that smuggling is not the main reason of currency shortage in Pakistan.

He stated this during the launching ceremony of the “Pass Track” application regarding currency declaration for international travelers, held at the FBR House.

He outrightly rejected allegations that billions of dollars were smuggled out of the country. This is absolutely a wrong perception that billions of dollars were smuggled, he said. The currency crunch was due to 3-4 different factors responsible for the situation. “Currency smuggling factor was the smallest.”

People were involved in the hoarding of dollars, keeping in view the economic situation in anticipation of an increase in the rupee-dollar parity. They purchased dollars Rs210, Rs220-225 and keep on hoarding. Now you see the margin between the inter-bank rate and open market rate is decreasing which would result in the reversal of the present situation, the FBR Member Customs said.

Dar admits 'huge smuggling of dollars' taking place as Pakistan's forex reserves suffer

The FBR Member clarified that the hoarding of dollars is not illegal under customs laws.

The other major factor was that the remittances of overseas Pakistanis, which come through the normal banking channel, started coming from other sources.

The investors abroad and financers of smuggling started purchasing remittances at higher rates from overseas Pakistani workers. There are reports that the smuggling mafia in Dubai is purchasing dollars even at the rate of Rs270-275. Those private purchasers are not exchange companies, but smugglers of foreign currencies who purchased foreign currency like Saudi Riyals from overseas workers at higher rates. These are not exchange companies, but private parties/smugglers, Ansari explained.

It is a fact that the dollars were available in the black market and people keep on purchasing at higher rates, FBR Member added.

The first phase of the fast-track project has been launched. The FBR has requested the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to add a feature of scanning the QR codes of the passports to collect all the data, he said.

The passengers are checked at the airports on the basis of risk profiling and we are not engaged in very strict enforcement to encourage voluntary compliance, the FBR Member added.

To a query, the Executive Director of the SBP said that we want to discourage cash-based transactions and encourage card-based transactions.

The FBR Member stated that the State Bank of Pakistan has issued the notification dated 08.11.2022 to revise the cash-carrying limits for outbound passengers. Accordingly, the FBR, vide SRO 2201(I)/2022 dated 12.12.2022 has notified the revised cash-carrying limits, the limits for passengers travelling abroad except Afghanistan. Moreover, the SBP has also made it mandatory for every person carrying foreign currency to file a declaration with Customs.

The maximum limit per person per visit in US$5,000 and $30,000 per year (or equivalent in other foreign currencies) for 18 years and above (adults). The maximum limit per person per visit in US$2,500 and $15,000 annual (or equivalent in other foreign currencies) for age below 18 years (Minors).

Pakistan customs is the smallest anti-smuggling agency and the total strength of the agency is not more than 10 per cent of the total anti-smuggling agencies including law enforcement agencies, FBR Member maintained.

In order to make it convenient for international passengers, Pakistan Customs has obtained help from National Information Technology Board (NITB) to develop a web-based mobile App to electronically file the declaration.

The FBR Member said that the mobile app with the name of “PassTrack” has been modified to facilitate passengers. This platform facilitates the passengers to declare currency while travelling to/from Pakistan even before coming to airport. Testing of the App has been completed and many new features have been incorporated so that passengers can easily fill in all the required information.

The App is available on App store and Play store for downloading. The Web version of the App is also available. It is also accessible from all over the world.

The App provides step-by-step guidance to travelers making it easier for them to file declarations.

He said that any person can register on the App using his/her mobile number and the declaration form is available both in Urdu and English languages.

The passenger will provide personal data once, and on the next visit, the system will auto populate the form on logging in.

The App will show previous declarations in the calendar year and available annual limit Data immediately becomes available in Customs system to Departure & Arrival Monitoring officers.

A feedback/complaint mechanism has also been incorporated in the APP to cater to any mistake/correction.

The Pass Track app is part of FBR’s resolve of making all-out efforts in creating a culture of compliance through technology-based solutions and eliminating human intervention.

The FBR is grateful to our important partner NITB for the development of the app. Their team has been very cooperative and showed great commitment to developing this app as well as to incorporate any changes suggested by the FBR. We look forward to their continued cooperation in future for further improvement of the app and linked systems. We also extend appreciation to the PR wing for developing an effective media campaign to raise awareness among the general public in a short span of time, Ansari added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Comments

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Shani Feb 03, 2023 08:35am
FBR, custom come hard on overseas Pakistani when they arrive the airport. Regulation must be ease so transit with ease. At the moment officers at airport are fully equipped with law and regulations which they use to harass the overseas Pakistani
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Tinwala Feb 04, 2023 11:35pm
Why there are no effective controls to curb smuggling in Baluchistan and KPK? Why officers posted in these provinces to curb smuggling are so rich?
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