By M Jahangir Hayat
LAHORE: A joint team of the Customs Sialkot and Lahore officers has indicated insufficient staff, building, residential infrastructure and transport facilities with the Sialkot collectorate to regulate a large number of Sikh yatrees and opening of trade at the Kartarpur Corridor
border-crossing, making recommendations thereon, Daily The Business has learnt.
As per a recent report prepared by Customs officials, documents for which are available with this scribe, a four-member Customs team visited the site of Kartarpur Corridor holding a meeting with the relevant agencies working there, including the district administration and others.
The Customs officers in their report highlighted that as a large number of yatrees are expected to arrive Pakistan on daily basis, the Customs would require a matching number of staff to regulate them. Customs Sambrial through a number of letters in the past had sensitized the
Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) regarding scarcity of human resource.
The report informed that at present the working strength of the Collectorate is 127 officials out of the sanctioned strength of 165.
The report also highlighted that at the time of creation of this Collectorate in 2000, the sanctioned strength was 239 that was meant for a dry port, however, the Collectorate thereafter assumed a number of operational functions including Anti-Smuggling Operations on six
districts of Gujranwala Division and started regulating a number of field formations which include an International Airport, an additional dry port, two Export Processing Zones, an international mail office and a large number of units/firms availing export concessionary regimes
such as DTRE, Manufacturing Bond and SRO 492(1/09 dated 13.06.2009. Thus, the existing working strength is over-burdened, the report said, adding that the Collectorate will not be able to man the entry and exit points of Kartarpur Corridor with the existing strength.
The report recommended recruitment of additional staff including one additional collector, two assistant collectors/deputy collectors, eight superintendents, 80 inspectors appraising officers, 16 drivers, 160 sepoys, eight head clerks, eight niab qasids, five sweepers and five cooks.
In the report it was highlighted that neither sufficient operational space has been allocated for Customs nor any offices are being built in this regard and recommendation were made that the Customs would be requiring the facilities of fully furnished, air conditioned International Industrial Standard office space covering total are
39,160 sq ft for the corridor for its smooth functioning.
The Customs officials said that keeping in view the quantum of passengers, it is expected soon a large-scale commercial activity will trigger in this area. The option cannot be ruled out that a Land Freight Unit (LFU) on the lines one existing at Wagha border be required for clearance of commercial trucks and goods at Kartarpur.
It was mentioned in the report that the possibility of opening of trade at Kartarpur has a huge economic potential as the Sikh Community all across the globe has expressed their desire of making Kartarpur an industrial zone.
In this regard it can be easily foreseen that a well-established dry port or clearance terminal would be required to meet the future needs of trade in the region, the officers in the report stated, adding that the land in the adjoining areas of Kartarpur Corridor is
not only available but is also available on very cheap rates, the report explained, adding that a land acquired at this point in time will be helpful for the department in establishing a Land Freight Unit (LFU), similar to one exiting at Wagha Border Lahore, in future.
The existing LFU at Lahore comprises an area of 746 kanal and there is a plan to acquire a similar area to fulfill the future needs, the officers said informing that the survey team envisaged the possible location of LFU at Kartarpur and determined the land at the right side of clearance terminal as most suitable for not only LFU but also for building the offices and warehouse.
Besides the information technology requirements and the other infrastructure requirements, the Customs officials also highlighted the vehicles requirements.
The report said that that for smooth operations of Customs at the Corridor, the Customs at the corridor would require eight Toyota Hilux double cabin (2700 cc), four Toyota GLI (1300 cc) and two 24-seater coaster for shuttle service between terminal and residence.
The Customs officers report further highlighted that the Kartarpur Corridor is going to get operational soon and the Collectorate is lacking resources in terms of manpower and finance to commence the operations of Customs at the Corridor.
They indicated that all the aforementioned requirements are time-taking.
The acute shortage of staff can be analyzed form the fact that each section of MCC Sialkot has been provided with bear minimum staff. It is accordingly proposed that as a stopgap arrangement the following measures may be approved by the Board for smooth Kartarpur imminent
operations, the report stated.
The report recommended that eight superintendents, 30 inspectors and 60 sepoys may immediately be transferred from other field formations to Customs Sambrial.
POL amounting to Rs. 3 million may be sanctioned thereby enabling the Collectorate to start shuttle service for staff from Sambrial to Kartarpur as the Corridor is 106 km from Sambrial and for a two sides journey a POL amounting to Rs 250,000 per month would be required,
the report added.
Alternatively, it is proposed that till the fulfillment of
aforementioned requirements the administrative/ operational control of Kartarpur Corridor may be given to MCC Preventive Lahore as the subject Corridor is equidistant from Lahore as it is from Sialkot.
Moreover, MCC (P) Lahore has sufficient staff to man the Corridor, the Customs officials concluded.
However, when contacted Sambrial Collector Asif Abbas said that the collectorate is fully equipped to regulate the arrival of yatrees and trade activities. “Everything is available with the Sambrial Collectorate and that the report is old one,” he informed.