Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world, where a number of taxpayers are less than one-fifth of the country’s population. The main reason behind this is incomprehensible, and outdated laws of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and poor performance of Pakistan’s one of the most elite cadres of civil services (Customs Intelligence). The department of Customs Intelligence is serving as a guardian against the smuggling of goods, money, and drugs through borders, by road, sea, and air. Every year, it provides huge revenue to the government of Pakistan. Unfortunately, for the last 3 decades, it has been performing poorly. According to some estimates, the smuggled goods are worth more than 11per cent of the GDP of the country and that is alarming for a slowly developing country like ours. I am astonished that last three governments did not take notice properly, which could be the cause of poor industrialisation and tax collection too in the country.
If we look back into history, it can be said that the smuggling of drugs increased four times after the migration of Afghans during the Soviet-Afghan war when more than 3 million Afghans migrated to Pakistan in 1979. Still, tons of drugs, the latest electrical equipment, and household goods enter our country without paying any customs duty and taxes. This free smuggling across the country is destroying our economy in a way we cannot even imagine. Moreover, our so-called custom intelligence is somehow involved with smuggling mafia and drug suppliers who pay them hefty amounts as a bribe for covering up their sin. Do the Customs authorities not know about the huge smuggling of goods, being carried out by lorries and trucks? Definitely, they know everything. Without their assistance, it is impossible to bring smuggles goods into our country. Drug abuse is rapidly increasing in Pakistan, especially among youth including those in colleges and universities, resulting in serious social and health issues. According to some recent estimate, there are around ten million drug addicts in the country of which more than two million are believed to be in the age group of 18 to 24. The growing trend of drug abuse in educational institutions has created a serious ultimatum to the lives of students. The number of addicts is on the rise at the rate of 40, 000 per year, making Pakistan one of the most affected countries in the world. Moreover, smuggling is causing a serious threat to the already crippling economic situation of the country. Goods worth billions of rupees are sold in the black market and no one is there to take notice of this illegal business.
FBR is responsible for the overall collection of taxes in Pakistan. There are less than 1.7 million tax filers in the country with the population of 210 million. we have to keep in mind that only one and a half a million filers cannot bear the financial stress and pressure on them for whole of the country. if a filer is doing a business especially in garments, he /she has to give tax on everything. On the other hand, non-filers hide their income in millions easily. FBR needs to change its passive policies towards filers and should give them relief. On the other hand, strict policies should be made and more and more people should be added to the tax net as soon as possible to make the better survival of Pakistan.
existing Covid-19 pandemic has further aggravated the economic situation, financially damaged the business activities throughout the country. smuggling goods are degrading the value of local products and local industries are being damaged as well. In this regard, the FBR and Customs department have utmost important duty to prioritise searching and raiding the smuggling godowns to curb the menace of drugs and goods smuggling.
The writer is a senior social analyst and chairman of
Pakistan Columnist Council, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.