ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Commerce has started enforcing the arms and ammunition import policy with a delay of almost two years after approval from the federal cabinet.
Talking to The Express Tribune, a senior official of the ministry said they had started applying the policy from last week and sent letters to provinces, seeking details of weapons importers for allotting them quota after assessing their past performance.
Unlike the previous policy that provided value-based quota, the new regime will allot quantity-based quota to the importers in an effort to avoid its misuse.
The commerce ministry had notified the arms import policy in December 2014 and now it is enforcing it by issuing new guidelines to the provinces.
“The enforcement mechanism could not be established because we were trying to identify genuine dealers and filter out certain importers that were misusing the policy and exerting pressure for continuing with the value-based import system,” said the official.
However, sources suggested that the Ministry of Commerce did not implement the cabinet’s decision allegedly in an attempt to favour certain arms and ammunition importers.
The federal cabinet approved the procedure for import of arms and ammunition in March 2013, but certain politicians and officials opposed its implementation, which led to manipulation of the policy by the influential arms dealers. According to sources, bureaucrats also misused it by twisting the procedure.
Following the cabinet’s approval, the commerce ministry issued an SRO in 2014, elaborating the procedure for import of arms and ammunition, which contained a complete package.
However, sources said, the ministry later cancelled contracts of arms importers on June 30, 2015 without issuing them new quantity-based quota, which seems to be an anomaly.
The ministry again issued letters to some importers, allowing the release of their consignments, whose shipments were delayed, at 15% surcharge.
Sources suggested that there was no justification for the release of arms at 15% surcharge as it was beyond the ministry’s jurisdiction to change the decision of the cabinet.
Later, the commerce ministry told the Federal Board of Revenue that all consignments up to October 2015 may be released without any surcharge.
The commerce ministry has no spokesperson and Commerce Secretary Shahzad Arbab and Joint Secretary Import and Export Muhammad Ashraf did not respond to repeated calls for comments.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2015.
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