Who, how and what’ of the weapons infiltration in Karachi


KARACHI: As the fact finding commission, headed by former Member Customs, Ramzan Bhatti, pursues the ‘who, how and what’ of the weapons infiltration in Karachi that resulted in a mess, several hidden aspects of the ordeal are going to be unearthed and a number of black sheep are going to be unearthed.

The DG Rangers had informed that Supreme Court of Pakistan that 19,000 containers of arms and ammunition found their way in the city, which was the prime reason of phenomenal surge in the rate of heinous crimes in the cosmopolitan city.

Bhatti was appointed by the Supreme Court as the one-man fact finding mission in the suo moto case in Karachi law and order situation and infiltration of arms and ammunition in the city through the sea route.

Ramzan Bhatti has expanded the ambit of investigation so that no stone remains unturned. He has already sought data from the customs officials regarding import of weapons by commercial importers and the clearance against quota allotted to the importers.

Moreover, the Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) and supplies of NATO/ISAF would also come under investigation along with shifting of containers from Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT), Karachi International Container Terminal (KICT) and Pakistan International Container Terminal (PICT) to off-dock terminals including Al-Hamd Terminal, Pak-Shaheen, BOML and NLCC.
It was known that the fact-finding mission is also seeking complete details regarding shifting of containers to these off-dock terminals as involvement of terminal operators is highly likely.

Sources said that it was a multi-dimensional ordeal and certain big fish were going to be unveiled as Bhatti had dedicated his time and energies to reach at the bottom of the issue.

Sources informed that the ‘cause list’ was getting longer as the team would also investigate Pak-Shaheen container scam in which huge quantity of goods were illegally removed from the terminal.

The investigation has also identified ambiguities regarding assessment of containers without examination by Assistant Collector, Deputy Collector and Appraisers in the WeBOC system. It may be mentioned here that examination of scores of consignments was rejected and the consignment were assessed and cleared directly.

The fact-finding commission is formed to suggest who could be held responsible for the smuggling of the arms and ammunition in the country through ships, vessels as well as launches and what the reasons were behind not preventing smuggling.

The commission would also find as to whether the Customs officials posted at the Ports of Bin Qasim and Karachi managed to recover hundred percent customs duty and the revenues or there were certain mechanisms on the basis of which these duties were evaded causing loss to the public exchequer and ultimately such black money was used for illegal activities and promoting crimes in the country.

The court observed that commission would submit its report within seven days and directed Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman to provide him all logistic facilities and also settle with him the fee of the commission according to his stature.

Customs sources said that the data of clearance of goods under Afghan Transit Trade and Nato/Isaf was also demanded besides all clearance data of MCC PACCS for 2005 and onwards were asked for. The sources said that issue of 267 containers of MCC PaCCS would again be in the lime-light; these containers had disappeared.

Sources said that the commission might question regarding the clearance of consignments through MCC PaCCS during 2005 – 2007 without examination as all the intelligence agencies had been strictly directed to clear the consignments without checking.

It was learnt that on the directives of the then PM Shaukat Aziz to the then FBR chairman Abdullah Yousuf the containers were cleared without proper checking even cargo of US did not even file goods declaration.

At that time the Collector of MCC PaCCS was Mian Azhar Majeed, who was suspended in 267 missing containers case on the report of Hafiz Anees Ahmed and then retired during his suspension. Other officials including Ashir Azim was also suspended but reinstated later.

Interestingly, in those missing containers about 30 FIRs were registered but the inefficient customs department had found no clue and the investigation remained in the cold storage.