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Karachi Custom Agents threaten strike next week

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Pakistan, Karachi News : The Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA) has threatened to go on an indefinite strike next week against the issuance of show-cause notices to its 275 members by the customs, alleging involvement of agents in Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) containers scam.

The notices seek recovery of duty and taxes against those ATT containers which went missing and never reached Pakistan-Afghan customs post.

Talking to newsmen at the association’s office here on Thursday, KCAA president Saif Ullah Khan said that 2,800 members of the association are service providers and their role is restricted to port area whereas other stakeholders, including national carriers, like National Logistic Cell (NLC) and Pakistan Railways, load the cargo from the port.

He pointed out that Supreme Court of Pakistan and National Accountability Bureau (NAP) also took up the ATT container scam, but so far no responsibility has been fixed and no culprit has been nabbed.

He was critical of different government agencies and stated that there was confusion over number of disappeared ATT containers. From 250,000, it has come down to 8,000 boxes.

Several attempts, he said, were made to meet the high officials of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and chief collector customs (South), but failed.

However, on June 20, Saif Ullah Khan said the KCAA delegation met the chief collector who instead of listening to the team patiently, told us that KCAA was inferring in legal process.

He lamented, like other stakeholders, including goods carriers, the customs agents are also issued licenses by the customs and there was no question of doing any illegal work.

The KCAA chief further stated that all registered and licenced customs agents operate under public notice 16 of 2000(A) and No.5 of 2003 (PQ).

However, as FBR has informed the Supreme Court of revenue loss to the tune of Rs55 billion on containers scam, the customs authorities are trying to recover this amount from customs agents before the close of current fiscal year on June 30, 2013.

He raised question as to why the authorities are not holding goods carrier responsible for missing containers because they become the custodian of all ATT cargo once it moves out of port area.

Similarly, he said the responsibility also falls upon customs check-post at Pakistan-Afghan border but it seems that customs agents have been selected to pay for the sins of others.

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