LAHORE - The anti-smuggling intelligence agencies have been barred from probing into the mega scam involving 19,000 missing containers, allegedly carrying arms, ammunition, liquor, and other goods, thanks to the powerful politicians for backing the criminals.
A top official in the Customs intelligence disclosed to The Nation on Friday that the anti-smuggling intelligence agencies had started the probe following the one-man commission submitted its sealed report to the Supreme Court, Karachi Registry, in compliance with the order passed on August 30th by the larger bench of the apex court in the case pertaining to law and order situation in Karachi. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, further informed that the investigations were put on hold because of strong opposition from the different political quarters. “The operatives of anti-smuggling intelligence agencies are not being allowed to grill the suspected elements,” the official added. The investigators are being forced by some political quarters to keep at bay from visiting the port facilities to collect information or evidences required to move forward the mega smuggling case.
Though the official did not specifically name the ‘political quarters’ but said that anti-smuggling intelligence agencies must be allowed to further advance the probe to reach out to the real culprits. The missing containers case, which rang alarm bells in the country’s security circles, had surfaced after an inquiry into the matter was ordered by the top court on a claim made by Director General of Sindh Rangers Maj-Gen Rizwan Akhtar that 19,000 containers had been stolen from the Karachi Port when MQM’s Babar Ghauri was the Ports and Shipping Minister.
“If the anti-smuggling intelligence agencies are allowed to continue the probe, even covertly, they would definitely find out as to what material was stuffed in thousands of containers, which disappeared mysteriously soon after smuggling into Pakistan,” a source in the Federal Board of Revenue believed. The official who is also familiar with the development claimed that the intelligence operatives, during initial probe, had collected some solid clues to establish who was responsible for such large-scale smuggling in Pakistan. “They were about to find out the real intent behind the smuggling before they were pulled out of the probe.” Hence, the probe pertaining to missing containers must be completed at all costs, he added. Sources revealed that the anti-smuggling agencies had also been tasked to uncover foreign hands involved in sending unauthorised substance to Pakistan.
Security analysts state that the political parties must let the investigation be completed to find out as to what the containers contained and that the consignment was dispatched by whom for what purpose? They state that the political leadership should possess political will to protect Pakistan’s interests by allowing the professionals to attain a level of excellence and competence to stop such practices in the country.
Internal security problems and lawlessness in the country has not only created social disorder, psychological anxiety and emotional chaos among all segments of society but it has also led to serious lack of political will and professional competence to safeguard the national interests, especially when the country is passing through a crucial stage of its history. “Serious lapses of security and smuggling when pointed out for their exhaustive investigation and conclusive probes are wasted in political point-scoring. The aim is to follow the party-line and protect the criminals having powerful political clout,” stated Masood Aziz, a Lahore-based security analyst. Consequently, substance of vital significance either gets legally absolved or relegated to oblivious ignorance. The anti-Pakistan elements find the ambiance most fruitful for their penetration into Pakistani public for their exploitation by making them unwitting agents of foreign agencies to facilitate smuggling of huge caches of illegal arms into Pakistan.
It seems that the missing containers in Karachi had the same fate, as the statements by some political leaders were strong enough to remove the issue from media forefront. Though ISAF and NATO leadership issued a statement that none of their containers were missing, yet the issue cannot be dismissed as 19,000 missing containers have the potential to disrupt peace in Karachi and other parts of the country. Although the entire issue appears to have been swept away by the strong assertions made by some powerful political quarters yet the security entails that investigation into the matter must be completed to draw conclusions. The political quarters should assure themselves that the rule of law will only be established if matters of such nature are allowed to be probed thoroughly since blame games and politicising the issue will not be in the benefit of the country.