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ISLAMABAD: Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar is said to have blocked final approval of Pakistan Land Port Authority (PLPA) from Cabinet, saying that Revenue Division has not consulted Commerce Ministry on the proposal, well-informed sources told Business Recorder.

The Revenue Division, sources said, briefed the Cabinet in its last meeting that the Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) 2012-2015, presented by the Ministry of Commerce and approved by the Government of Pakistan, envisioned the establishment of the Pakistan Land Port Authority.

The Policy’s aim was that PLPA would function as a statutory authority responsible for inter-agency coordination to facilitate the movement of goods and people across Border Crossing Points (BCPs) to enhance trade and reduce the cost of doing business.

Barter trade instrument: MoC says it has gotten ‘blanket’ approval from cabinet

According to Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Revenue Division, after the approval of the STPF 2012-2015 by Government of Pakistan developed an Integrated Transit Trade Management System (ITTMS) to position Pakistan as a regional transit hub under the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation - Regional Improving Border Services (CAREC-RIBS) Project for international trade. Asian Development Bank agreed to finance the development of key border stations and the establishment of PLPA.

Accordingly, the overall structure of PLPA was developed by a team of experts as per international best practices in consultation with the Divisions concerned. Subsequently, the matter was forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Office and also reviewed by the PLPA Steering Committee, as instructed by the PMO. The Committee unanimously endorsed the establishment of PLPA using the existing public sector officials in Phase-I for the first two years within the current Government budget.

In view of the Steering Committee’s endorsement, the Revenue Division had been instructed to place the case before the Cabinet for its in-principle approval as required under Rule 16 (1) (a) of the Rules of Business 1973.

Revenue Division also shared a synopsis of the proposed Legal Act delineating the scope, jurisdiction, mandate, legal structure, composition, governance model, and administrative control to provide the legislative cover for PLPA which had also been prepared by FBR as required under Rule 27 (2) of the Rules of Business 1973.

With the coming into being of Pakistan Land Port Authority, the land port entry points would be transformed into Integrated Check Points to enable smooth cross border movement of individuals, vehicles and goods under an integrated complex. This would facilitate the processes of immigration, Customs, cargo security, quarantine, Sanitary & Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures, etc.

To enable this, the present infrastructural facilities would be up-graded wherever needed. The spadework to establish PLPA will be carried out by a ‘Set up Committee’ to be headed by Secretary Ministry of Commerce in close collaboration of other Ministries.

The PLPA would initially focus on the three critical identified border crossings at Wagah, Chaman, and Torkham and gradually extend to other border points and will also review the efficacy of extending its reach to other inland ports.

Considering the urgent requirement of PLPA, the in-principle approval of the Cabinet for the drafting of the proposed legislation of PLPA was solicited.

During discussion, the Minister for Commerce, Naveed Qamar, pointed out that his Division was a key stakeholder but was not consulted. The members suggested that the requisite, in principle, approval be granted, subject to concurrence by the Commerce Division.

The Cabinet considered the summary titled “in-Principle Cabinet Approval for Drafting Proposed Legislation of Pakistan Land Port Authority (PLPA)” dated 13th June, 2023, submitted by the Revenue Division, and approved the proposal subject to concurrence by the Commerce Division.

When contacted, Commerce Minister did not offer comments on the views he expressed in the Federal Cabinet meeting. “Cannot comment on proceedings of a cabinet meeting, which we are under oath not to disclose. Kindly file your story using whatever other source you have,” he said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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