Shocking but expected, says Pakistani daily on transit scam

Friday, January 21, 2011

ISLAMABAD - The explosive findings in the federal tax ombudsman’s report on a string of scams related to the Afghan transit trade were described by a Pakistani daily as “shocking but expected”.

An editorial in the Dawn Friday said: “Shocking but expected. This is how the findings of the federal tax ombudsman’s report on a series of scams related to Afghan Transit Trade are largely being seen.”

It “highlights the fact that some powerful people, helped by corrupt customs authorities, are involved in smuggling in the name of transit trade. These concerns have been expressed for many years now”.

“Successive governments, including the incumbent one, also chose to look away rather than take action in spite of huge revenue losses and damage caused to domestic industry and investors,” Dawn said.

“The matter was only taken seriously when the apex court took suo moto action on reports of smuggling of contraband items in the name of food supplies for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and ordered an investigation into the scam.”

The editorial said that the national exchequer is estimated to have suffered a revenue loss of up to Rs.37 billion in the last four years due to pilferage of containers entering the country under the transit trade pact with Kabul.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

“After all, it is near impossible to calculate the precise tax losses because we do not know and don’t have a record of what and how much had entered the country during these years under the transit facility. But the losses are clearly significant.”

It went on to say that while “the `big fish’ and corrupt tax officials go on stealing from the exchequer, the common people continue to pay more and more taxes to fill the gap in government revenues”.

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