Pakistan tightens enforcement against smuggling after ban on luxury imports

A shopkeeper deals with customer at his mobile shop in Islamabad, Pakistan, on May 20, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 24 May 2022

Pakistan tightens enforcement against smuggling after ban on luxury imports

  • The country recently banned import of luxury, non-essential items to save precious foreign exchange
  • Pakistan has been witnessing an increase in current account deficit, with rupee hitting historic lows

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government has increased enforcement against the smuggling of contraband items, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said on Tuesday, days after the South Asian country banned luxury imports to stop the outflow of precious foreign exchange. 

Pakistan last week announced a complete ban on imported cars and non-essential items as its current account deficit continues to spiral out of control and foreign exchange reserves tumble, pushing the Pakistani rupee to historic lows against the US dollar. 

The banned items include imported cars, home appliances, cellular phones, home appliances, shoes, cosmetics, chocolates, among others. 

"As the government has banned the import of a few non-essential items, we fear that smuggling of these items will increase," Ismail said on Twitter.  

"Therefore, we have increased enforcement against professional khaipyas (bootleggers)." 

The minister, however, said that common citizens bringing in a few items from abroad would not be harassed. 

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Customs said in a statement it had increased enforcement at the Karachi airport to prevent smuggling of items, which had recently been banned by the government. 

As a result of heightened vigilance, it said, officials had seized hundreds of kilograms of food stuff and fruit as well as sanitary ware, used mobile phones and branded shoes. 

"The enforcement staff has been directed to ensure deterrence in future and to make sure that unscrupulous elements may not use air travel to circumvent the recently imposed ban," the Pakistan Customs added. 

Pakistani minister promises voting rights to overseas nationals while visiting Saudi Arabia

Updated 14 sec ago

Pakistani minister promises voting rights to overseas nationals while visiting Saudi Arabia

  • The interior minister met expats in Jeddah where he described overseas Pakistanis as country’s ‘assets’
  • The kingdom is home to the highest number of Pakistanis living abroad, making it the biggest source of remittances

ISLAMABAD: Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told a group of Pakistani nationals in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday the government was finalizing the modalities of voting process for citizens living abroad ahead of the next general elections that are scheduled to take place in August next year.

The minister, who went to the kingdom to perform Umrah, met with representatives of Pakistani community in Jeddah where he described the overseas nationals as “the country’s assets.”

Saudi Arabia has the highest number of Pakistani expatriates, making it the top source of remittances for the South Asian country.

“The government will ensure that overseas Pakistanis manage to use their voting right in the coming elections,” the interior minister said, adding it was “finalizing the modalities of the voting procedure.”

Pakistan’s ruling coalition revoked the voting right of overseas Pakistanis in May by passing the Election Amendment Bill, 2022, which also prevented the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in general elections.

The country’s ousted prime minister Imran Khan’s administration sanctioned the use of EVMs during a joint parliamentary sitting in February, though its political rivals resisted the move and vowed to challenge it in the country’s top court.

“Overseas Pakistanis are our best national asset,” Sanaullah said. “Their remittances are key for the economic stability [of the country].”

Discussing the Pak-Saudi ties, the minister said the kingdom had always helped Pakistan in the most difficult of situations.

“We are grateful to the Saudi government for providing employment opportunities to Pakistani workers and professionals,” he added.

Five more killed in Pakistan’s flood-hit Balochistan province as torrential rains continue

Updated 27 min 18 sec ago

Five more killed in Pakistan’s flood-hit Balochistan province as torrential rains continue

  • The death toll caused by monsoon rains this year has climbed to 201 in Pakistan’s southwestern province
  • Official statistics reveal 635 people have lost their lives in the country since the beginning of monsoon season

QUETTA: Three women and two children were killed in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province on Tuesday night after their vehicle was swept away in a flash flood in Panjpai near Pishin district, said a senior official deployed in the area.

Pakistan’s Meteorological Department warned last week that torrential rains were going to lash the country's southern region, saying they would continue until August 18.

So far, 201 residents of Balochistan have lost their lives in rains and floods since the beginning of the monsoon season in mid-June.

Speaking to Arab News, the deputy commissioner of Pishin, Zafar Ali, confirmed that a vehicle carrying women and children attempted to cross flood water while moving from Quetta to Killa Abdullah district when the accident took place.

“Locals told the driver to take another route since flood water was moving through the area, but he accelerated his vehicle which was swept away,” he said. “Three women and two children were killed in the incident.”

Ali informed that security forces had recovered the bodies from Mirani area of district Pishin, adding they had been handed over to the bereaved family.

Official statistics gathered by the provincial authorities reveal that more than 40,000 houses have been damaged in recent floods in Balochistan that have also affected 400,000 acres of agricultural land.

The situation has also made it difficult for the residents of the province to travel to other areas since train services to Sindh and Punjab have been suspended by the authorities.

“The district administration in Sibi has set an embankment to stop the flow of water toward the city,” Muhammad Kashif, a railway official, told Arab News. “Until water is drained out from the area, it will be difficult to resume train service since the tracks are completely covered with water.”

He informed the railway authorities were helping passengers travel to nearby towns by hiring buses, adding these people would then catch a train to their respective destinations.

Pakistan’s federal cabinet on Tuesday decided to form a committee, chaired by the climate change minister, which would give its recommendations on launching projects to mitigate the impact of harsh weather conditions on the lives of people.

Pakistan is among the top eight countries most affected by climate change, though its share in the world carbon emissions is nearly one percent.

According to the National Disaster Management Authority, the country has faced unprecedented downpour during the monsoon season this year which claimed 635 lives in the last two months.

The flood forecasting division of the Pakistan Meteorological Department issued an alert on Tuesday, saying India had released 171,797 cusecs water which was likely to flood rivers in Pakistan.

UAE presents Order of the Union award to Pakistan’s army chief

Updated 50 min 17 sec ago

UAE presents Order of the Union award to Pakistan’s army chief

  • General Bajwa visited the Arab state where he discussed defense cooperation with UAE officials
  • The two countries have maintained strong bilateral relations since the Arab state’s formation in 1971

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday presented a top award to Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa during his visit to Abu Dhabi where he discussed defense and security cooperation with officials of the Arab country, said a statement circulated by the military’s media wing, ISPR.

Pakistan and the UAE have maintained strong bilateral relations since the Gulf state was formed in 1971.

The UAE is also the second largest source of remittances to Pakistan and has frequently provided economic and financial assistance to the South Asian nation.

According to the official statement, Bajwa met UAE President Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan during the visit.

“COAS [Chief of Army Staff] was ... conferred upon Order of the Union Medal by President of UAE for making significant contributions in furthering bilateral ties between both the countries,” the ISPR said.

“During the meeting matters of mutual interest, bilateral defense and security cooperation and regional security situation in the Middle East came under discussion,” the statement added.

The UAE president and the Pakistani army chief agreed the two countries shared a history of cordial relations and spirit of brotherhood which had led to an enduring partnership between them

Pakistani doctor pleads guilty to terror charge in Minnesota

Updated 17 August 2022

Pakistani doctor pleads guilty to terror charge in Minnesota

  • Muhammad Masood told FBI informants he wanted to carry out lone wolf attacks in the US
  • He was living in the US on work visa and wanted to travel to Syria to fight for Daesh militants

ST. PAUL, United States: A Pakistani doctor and former Mayo Clinic research coordinator pleaded guilty Tuesday to a terrorism charge, more than two years after he was arrested for telling paid FBI informants that he pledged his allegiance to the Daesh group and that he wanted to carry out lone wolf attacks in the US.

According to online court records, Muhammad Masood pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. A sentencing date has not been set.

Prosecutors say Masood was in the US on a work visa. They alleged that starting in January of 2020, Masood made several statements to paid informants — whom he believed were members of the Daesh group — pledging his allegiance to the group and its leader.

Prosecutors said Masood expressed his desire to travel to Syria to fight for Daesh and a desire to carry out lone wolf attacks in the US.

The Mayo Clinic has previously confirmed that Masood was a former employee at the medical center in Rochester, Minnesota, but was not employed by the clinic at the time of his arrest.

In a first, four elephants in Karachi to get root canal treatment for tusk infection

Updated 32 min 6 sec ago

In a first, four elephants in Karachi to get root canal treatment for tusk infection

  • The medical procedure will be performed by German veterinarians from Leibniz Institute in Berlin
  • Four Paws suggested immediate surgery for tusk infection after examining the elephants last year

KARACHI: A team of veterinarians from Germany is scheduled to treat elephants in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi for dental problems on Wednesday, confirmed a top official of an international animal rights organization supervising the unique project in the country’s history.

The Sindh High Court granted permission to the head veterinarian at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research to visit Pakistan in September last year to evaluate the health of four African elephants in the city.

The decision was taken after animal rights activists went to the court after a video went viral on social media which showed cracks in the foot of one of these animals, Malika, who lives in Karachi’s Safari Park.

The other three elephants, who will undergo the dental treatment, include Sonu, Noor Jehan and Madhubala.

“Today we will perform a unique operation in [the country’s] history,” Dr. Amir Khalil, director of Four Paws in Pakistan, told Arab News. “The team will remove the dead tissue, clean the root canal, and teach a local team how to conduct regular post-treatment flushing to prevent inflammation and sustain hygiene of the wounds.”

Four Paws, a Vienna-based animal welfare organization, made its own assessment of elephant health in November, suggesting immediate surgery since some of these animals had severe tusk infection.

“Our specialized veterinarians will use the innovative treatment which is much less invasive than the traditional approach,” he explained. “The traditional surgery is only possible under risky anesthesia and results in long post-surgery treatment with a higher risk of complications.”

The approach followed by the experts from Berlin, he added, had not been used on elephants in Pakistan, though other animals, such as horses, had benefitted from it in the past.

“The treatment is so unique that we even have to develop special equipment for it,” Khalil said. “The surgery will be performed by Professor Thomas Hildebrandt and Dr. Frank Göritz, two specialized veterinarians from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research from Berlin.”

He informed that his organization was working closely with local veterinarians and animal keepers, adding the visit of German experts would also be a unique learning experience for them.

“It is very important to us to improve the life of the last four elephants in Pakistan,” Khalil added.

It may be recalled that the country’s last Asian elephant, Kaavan, was sent to a sanctuary in Cambodia on the insistence of animal rights activists in November after he lived without his mate for nearly eight years in the Islamabad Zoo.

Kaavan was described as the “world’s loneliest elephant” before being released in his natural habitat with other animals.