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ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet has approved a three-member committee headed by caretaker Minister for Commerce to condone import/ export related prohibitions and restrictions on one-time basis, and to hear appeals under section 27 of the Trade Organisations Act, 2013, official sources told Business Recorder.

Ministry of Commerce recently informed the Federal Cabinet that under section 21 of the Trade Organisations Act, 2013, appeals against an order of the “Regulator” of Trade Organisations were filed before the Federal Government.

Similarly, para 20 and 21 of the Import Policy Order(IPO) 2022 and para 5 of the Export Policy Order (EPO), 2022, empower the Federal Government to condone import/ export related prohibitions and restrictions on one-time basis.

Falls under domain of Ministry of Commerce: SBP says it can’t impose ban on import of any item

Prior to Supreme Court’s judgement in Mustafa Impex case (PLD 2016 SC 808) with respect to definition and scope of the expression “Federal Government”, the powers of the Federal Government were exercised by the Ministry of Commerce.

However, in compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court in the judgment, the Ministry started sending summaries of even trivial and routine matters to the Federal Government for approval.

The Ministry further explained that in this backdrop, the Cabinet Division had also directed Ministries/ Divisions to substitute the word “Federal Government” with “appropriate authorities” in respective laws and rules, etc.

In pursuance, Ministry of Commerce also proposed necessary amendments in relevant rules of Trade Organisations and EPO/ IPO, which were at different stages of parliamentary approvals. As an interim arrangement and until the finalisation of the proposed amendments, the then Federal Cabinet constituted committees comprising Federal Ministers to dispose of specific statutory functions on behalf of Federal Government.

The composition of the Committees was as follows: (i) Committee for hearing of appeals under section 21 of the TOA 2013 comprised of Minister for Commerce (Convener), Minister for Industries and Minister for Aviation/ Railways; and (ii) Committee for one-time relaxation of prohibitions/ conditions under EPO/ IPO, Minister for Commerce (Convener), Minister for Law and Justice and Minister for Board of Investment.

After the dissolution of the previous Federal Cabinet on August 9, 2023, Ministry of Commerce requested the Cabinet Division to ascertain the legal status of the previously constituted Committees of the Cabinet. In response, the Cabinet Division clarified that Committees stood dissolved with the dissolution of the Government.

As the Ministry of Commerce was frequently receiving requests from importers/ exporters for condonation under the relevant paras of IPO and EPO, as well as appeals from trade bodies against the decisions of the DGTO the Federal Cabinet was requested to constitute a Committee for considering both the cases, i.e. to condone import/ export related prohibitions and restrictions on one-time basis, and to hear appeals under section 27 of the Trade Organisations Act, 2013, with the Minister for Commerce as the Convener and any other Federal Minister(s) as member(s), as deemed appropriate.

After brief discussion, the Cabinet approved the proposal of Commerce Ministry and constituted a Committee comprising of Minister for Commerce (Convener), Minister for Law and Justice (Member) and Minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives (Member) to condone import/ export related prohibitions and restrictions on one-time basis, and to hear appeals under section 27 of the Trade Organisations Act, 2013.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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