Iranian fruit smuggled through Afghan border upsets Pakistan apple cart 

Vendors sell apples on a street in Quetta in Balochistan province, Pakistan on July 26, 2020. (AFP / File Photo)
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Updated 15 October 2020

Iranian fruit smuggled through Afghan border upsets Pakistan apple cart 

  • Growers and officials in Balochistan say Iranian origin apples, produced and sold at a lower price than Pakistani variety, are being brought in as Afghan imports to avoid taxes
  • Edible goods’ imports from Afghanistan are exempt from tax collection, other countries have to pay 17% per kg duty 

KARACHI: Growers in the southwestern Balochistan province, where over 85 percent of Pakistan’s apples are produced, say the smuggling of Iranian apples into the country through the Afghanistan border has devalued their produce, making it hard for them even to cover costs. 
Smuggling has long been a part of the illicit trade in Balochistan, where a thriving commerce in goods from guns and narcotics to duty free cigarettes and second-hand Toyotas constitutes one the arteries of the globalized criminal economy. 
But now growers and officials in Balochistan, which borders Iran, say Iranian origin apples, produced and sold at a lower price than the Pakistani variety, are being brought in as Afghan imports, harming local business. By law, trade in Iranian goods must be conducted through the Taftan border crossing or other entry points on Pakistan’s border with Iran. 

The reason traders are opting to bring the apples in via Afghanistan rather than Iran, officials explained, was that according to the Sales Tax Act 1990, edible goods’ imports from Afghanistan are exempt from tax collection, whereas other countries have to pay 17 percent per kilogramme (kg) as duty on exports to Pakistan, including of apples imported from Iran. 
An importer has to pay Rs56 on the import of a kilogram of apples through Pakistan’s border with Iran, and only Rs8 through the Torkham border with Afghanistan, a customs official said. 
Thus, said Akhtar Kakar, vice president of the Balochistan Chamber of Commerce, traders were evading paying higher taxes by documenting Iranian apples as imports from Afghanistan. Apples were being sent from Iran to Afghanistan and then exported by Afghan traders to Pakistan, he said. 
Abdul Rauf, a senior official at the Agriculture Research Department Balochistan, said the country had produced 564693 tons of apples during 2017-18, of which 480,169 tons (85 percent) were produced in Balochistan. 
Customs officials said 55362.403 metric tons of apples worth Rs6,195.13 million were imported through the Torkham border in 2019-20. 
None of the officials or growers interviewed could specify the exact quantities of Iranian apples being smuggled into Pakistan via Afghanistan. 
“Growers, who are already depressed by the severe climate change, are faced with huge financial losses due to the import of the Iranian apples,” Samiullah Kakar, a grower in Kan Mehtarzai, a town in Balochistan, said. 




Pakistani vendors sell apples on a roadside stall in Killa Abdullah, a district in the north west of Balochistan province on August 29, 2017. (AFP / File photo)

Muhammad Salim, a collector of customs appraisement in Peshawar, admitted that it could not be “ruled out” that Iranian apples were being smuggled into Pakistan but said growers might be exaggerating the extent of the problem. 
“The illegal flow of Iranian apples through unfrequented routes may not be ruled out due to significant exemption of duty/taxes available to Afghan origin apples,” Salim said, adding that the origin of agricultural produce, including apples, could not be ascertained on visual or physical examination or even through a lab test. 
Salim said high duty on apples brought in from the Iran border compared to from Afghanistan “provides attraction to unscrupulous elements to push the illegal flow of Iranian apples into Pakistan using different modes and ways.”
He urged the commerce ministry to formulate ‘rules of origin’ and prescribe a credible certification mechanism to help customs implement stricter rules. 
“The duty and other import levies structure on apples may be reviewed in consultation with all stakeholders,” Salim said, “so that huge difference of incidence of duty and taxes on Afghan origin apples may be curtailed and balanced to avoid smuggling of illegal flow of Iranian Apples in Pakistan.” 
Kakar at the Balochistan Chamber of Commerce demanded that the government “immediately” stop Iranian produce from being imported via the Torkham border. 
“We demand that this must be stopped immediately, as the country’s own produce is also available,” he said. 
Kakar said it cost a grower Rs800 to produce a crate of apples in Pakistan, which would sell for Rs1600. 
“But when apples arrive from Iran,” he said, “where it costs far less to farm, the prices drop to Rs1000 for mountainous apples and as low as Rs400 for apples being grown in plain areas.”


Pakistan Air Force offers support, training to Sri Lankan military

Updated 46 min 15 sec ago

Pakistan Air Force offers support, training to Sri Lankan military

  • Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan earlier this week met Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and top military officials in Colombo
  • Pakistan last month offered a $50 million credit line to Sri Lanka for cooperation in the field of defense and security  

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) chief has offered support to and agreed to strengthen cooperation with the Sri Lankan military, PAF said on Saturday.

Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan arrived in Colombo on Thursday, where he met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and top military officials.

As Marshal Khan lauded the efforts of Sri Lankan Armed Forces in their fight against terrorism during a meeting with Defense Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, he offered Pakistan's support and cooperation, PAF said in a statement.


In this photo released by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on March 6, 2021, Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan meets Sri Lanka Defense Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne in Colombo. (Photo courtesy: PAF)

"The leaders agreed to further enhance bilateral cooperation especially in training and professional enhancement programs," PAF said, adding that Gen. Gunaratne welcomed the Pakistani air chief's visit as "manifestation of the strong bond between the Armed Forces of both the countries, especially the two Air Forces."

The Pakistani air chief's visit follows Prime Minister Imran Khan's official visit in late February, during which Pakistan offered a $50 million new credit line to Sri Lanka for cooperation in the field of defense and security.


Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan

Updated 29 min 39 sec ago

Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan

  • Accident took place between the Rohri and Sangi stations in southern Sindh province
  • Eight cars of the 18-car train from Karachi to Lahore derailed and six fell into a shallow ditch

MULTAN: Eight cars of a Lahore-bound train derailed in southern Pakistan early Sunday, killing at least one passenger and injuring 40 others, officials said.

The accident took place between the Rohri and Sangi stations in southern Sindh province and caused a temporary suspension of railway traffic in both directions, said Kamran Lashari, a railway official.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the derailment. Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where successive governments have paid little attention to improving the poorly maintained signal system and aging tracks.

Lashari said eight cars of the 18-car train that departed from Karachi for the eastern city of Lahore derailed and six fell into a shallow ditch.

Rescue official Muhammad Arshad said darkness and the remote location of the derailment hampered rescue efforts. He said the body of the woman who died and 40 injured passengers were taken to hospitals in nearby towns. It wasn’t immediately clear how many passengers were on the train.

Railway Minister Azam Sawati told a local television station that the accident was being investigated and the government would provide financial compensation to the heirs of deceased woman and all the injured.


Pakistan’s security forces kill eight militants in North Waziristan — ISPR

Updated 26 min 12 sec ago

Pakistan’s security forces kill eight militants in North Waziristan — ISPR

  • The tribal district bordering Afghanistan remained a militant stronghold for many years until authorities launched military operations in the area
  • The militants killed in the recent attacks were involved in terrorist activities against security forces and locals since 2009

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s security forces conducted two separate intelligence-based operations in North Waziristan district, said the military’s media wing, ISPR, in an official statement on Saturday, adding that eight militants were killed in the ensuing battles. 

The tribal district bordering Afghanistan remained a militant stronghold until Pakistani authorities launched clear-and-hold military operations to destroy the hideouts and communication centers of various proscribed groups. 

The recent operations in the territory were launched against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants in which three senior commanders of the outfit were also killed, the ISPR statement informed. 

It added that these people were “involved in terrorist activities against security forces, law enforcement agencies and locals of the area since 2009.” 

The militants used improvised explosive devices and indulged in target killings, kidnapping for ransom and extortion. 

The statement continued that the TTP members were also involved in recruiting young and impressionable minds, adding that security personnel recovered huge caches of arms from their hideouts. 


PM Khan asks Hafeez Shaikh to continue as finance minister after Senate defeat

Updated 06 March 2021

PM Khan asks Hafeez Shaikh to continue as finance minister after Senate defeat

  • The prime minister expresses his faith in Shaikh's professional abilities while praising him for shoring up the national economy
  • Shaikh can work in his current capacity until June, though the government may try again to get him elected to parliament

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has told his close aide Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to continue working as finance minister after Shaikh lost a general seat from the federal capital to a joint opposition candidate in the recent Senate elections, local media reported on Saturday.
In a one-on-one meeting after securing the vote of confidence from parliament earlier in the day, Khan said he had complete faith in Shaikh's professional abilities and applauded him for shoring up the ailing national economy.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) administration relied heavily on its finance minister to bring down the current account deficit and keep the financial system on track during the coronavirus pandemic.
After the Islamabad High Court ruled in a case in December that no special assistant or advisor to prime minister could chair or participate in cabinet committee meetings, Khan exercised his constitutional authority to elevate Shaikh as a federal minister for a period of six months.
According to Article 91 (9) of the Constitution, the finance minister cannot be reappointed to the same position as an unelected individual, and his defeat in the Senate election implies he may only be able to serve in his current capacity until June.
According to The Express Tribune, however, the government is likely to make one more effort to get him elected to the upper house of parliament by de-seating an opposition member, Ishaq Dar, who was elected to the Senate from Punjab in 2018 but did not take oath to the office.


In Barcelona, hugs and sea air for Pakistani-Spanish Covid ICU survivor

Updated 06 March 2021

In Barcelona, hugs and sea air for Pakistani-Spanish Covid ICU survivor

  • The 52-year-old moved to Spain from Pakistan three decades ago and has spent 48 days in ICU
  • The seaside reunion launched by Spanish hospital is meant to 'humanize' ICU stays for isolating COVID-19 patients

BARCELONA: After spending 48 days with Covid-19 in an intensive care unit in Barcelona, Ibrar Ahmed Iftikhar looked pleased to finally be out in the open.
On the Spanish city's seaside promenade his family, who had not seen him since he was admitted to hospital, greeted him with kisses, hugs and caresses.
The 52-year-old, who moved to Spain from Pakistan three decades ago, has a tube in his neck allowing him to breathe -- but preventing him from speaking. He responds to affection instead with smiles and moving his lips to try to pronounce words.
His wife holds his hand, while his brother and sister caress his face. His 18-year-old son Hussnain does not leave his side, carefully adjusting the bedsheets when the Mediterranean breeze cools the air.
"I have never been apart from my father for so long. We get along really well, we have a good connection and not seeing or talking to him for so many days has been hard," he said.
"We were waiting for a call from the doctor 24/7, seven days a week, to see what they said. My father has a very large family and we were all watching out for news."
Iftikhar was also able to see his sisters, mother and other relatives by video over a smartphone. He waved to them as they spoke.
The large white bed is surrounded by healthcare workers from the Hospital del Mar -- the Hospital of the Sea -- wearing white and green gowns.
The scene draws the attention of passers-by on the promenade which before the pandemic would have been packed with tourists.
The seaside reunion is part of a programme launched by the hospital to try to "humanise" ICU stays and "include the physical and emotional wellbeing of the patients," Judith Marin, an intensive care doctor with the hospital, said.
To take part in one of these outings, a patient must first test negative for Covid-19 and have made significant progress in their recovery.
Patients are monitored while outside and emergency resuscitation equipment is on hand in case it is needed.
The project was launched before the arrival of the coronavirus but the pandemic has made it even more necessary because of the strict isolation protocols Covid-19 patients must endure.
The hospital wants to expand the programme in the future to allow pets to visit patients in the ICU unit.
"It is not just about leaving the four walls of the ICU unit, but also doing it in a natural setting such as a seaside promenade and physically meeting with relatives," said Marin.