Mubarak Zeb Khan
ISLAMABAD: While Pakistan is exploring Chinese markets for its products after signing a free trade agreement in 2006, some unscrupulous people smuggled about 560kg of heroin to the country in rice containers via Sost Dry Port in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Sources in the Customs Department told that the Chinese authorities had recently seized heroin concealed in rice containers and reported the matter to Pakistan government.
The sources did not disclose the quantity of rice. China is not a traditional market for Pakistani rice.
Member Customs Mumtaz Haider Rizvi told : “We have not received any official word from the Chinese customs authorities” about the incident, but sent a request to get an official confirmation from them.
Mr Rizvi said action would be taken against the culprits after receiving complete information from China.
A source in the customs department said the Chinese officials had earlier seized 10kg of heroin in a container exported via same route, but they didn`t report the case to the Pakistani authorities apparently because of a lesser quantity of the contraband item.
The source said that there were a few officers in the customs collectorate of Rawalpindi who solely managed postings and transfers at dry ports and got their favourites appointed at Sost port.
Pakistan`s bilateral trade with China swelled to $5.563 billion in 2009-10 from over $3 billion in 2004-05 after signing the Free Trade Agreement in November 2006. Pakistan`s export to China is slightly over $1 billion.
Former commerce minister Humayun Akhtar Khan, who had negotiated and signed the FTA with China, ruled out the possibility that the alleged seizure of heroin could trigger restrictions on Pakistani exports to China.
He told that nowhere in the world trade activities were curbed to control drug trafficking. He, however, said that it was inefficiency of customs intelligence and anti-narcotics force which were responsible to control movement of illegal items across the border.