KARACHI: The Supreme Court of Pakistan taking notice of smuggling of arms, ammunition and other contraband items in the country through sea ports, has directed the Chief Collector of Customs, DG Coast Guards, and DG Maritime Security Agency to hold a joint meeting and submit their report in this regard.
Supreme Court of Pakistan’s Karachi Registry Friday issued its interim verdict in Karachi law & order implementation case.
The five-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, passed the order.
The bench expressed dissatisfaction over the report submitted by the Chief Collector, Customs highlighting the difficulties being faced by his department in preventing the smuggling of arms, ammunition and other contraband items in the country.
The bench observed that on account of practical difficulties, it may not be possible only for the Customs Department to control it.
“The illegal trafficking of such arms and ammunition through ports (by the means of ships or launches etc) can be controlled by the Customs, Coast Guards and Maritime Security Agency.”
It was stated in the order that the Director General Rangers Sindh, Major General Rizwan Akhtar on the directions of court, explained that there were so many ways and means through which arms and ammunition were smuggled into the country.
However, the DG Rangers also explained that in Karachi, it was also necessary that there should be a verification of arms and ammunition dealers because without their facilitation or assistance, it was not possible to control the flow of weapons, the order added.
However, the court further observed that the Provincial as well as the Federal Government should take necessary steps to stop it.
“He (DG Rangers) has stated that in the past with the connivance of the then minister for ports & shipping, a shipload of arms and ammunition was brought into Karachi and the whereabouts of those arms were never ascertained,” the court observed in the order.
“In order to further ascertain the correct position about the smuggling of arms and ammunition as well as evasion of the duty on different items at the ports in Karachi, we are of the opinion that full custom duty should be recovered as one of the fallouts of this practice was hoards of black-money, which allegedly flow into the country particularly Karachi to finance criminal activities.”
The apex court in its interim verdict ordered the constitution of a fact-finding commission to look into the report with regard to smuggling of illegal arms into the country in shipping containers.
“In this regard, we appoint Mr. Ramzan Bhatti, as a One Man Commission with the observation that he should ascertain:
(a) As to whether arms or ammunition are brought or smuggled through the sea and what are the possible measures and ways to be adopted to stop it.
(b) Who can be held responsible for the smuggling of the arms and ammunition in the country through ships, vessels as well as launches and what are the reasons for not preventing the smuggling of the same.
(c) As to whether the Customs officials posted at the Ports of Bin Qasim and Karachi manage to recover hundred percent customs duty and the revenues or there are certain mechanisms on the basis of which these duties are evaded, which cause loss to the public exchequer and ultimately such black money is used for illegal activities and promoting crimes in the country.
(d) To inquire into the allegation that a ship load of arms and ammunition was brought into Karachi with the connivance of the then Minister for Shipping, as stated by the DG Rangers and to propose what action should be taken against the persons responsible.”
He may submit his report within seven days, it added.
“The Chairman, FBR is directed to provide him all logistic facilities and also settle with him the fee of the Commission according to his stature.”
“It is important to note that control of the smuggling of arms and ammunition is one of the most important aspects to control the law and order situation in Karachi as well as other parts of the country.”
“After having gone through the report submitted by the learned Advocate General, we are of the opinion that as now both the Governments i.e. Federal and Provincial are on board, and have decided to provide protection to and secure the life, property and liberty of the citizens, therefore, we have opted to exercise judicial self restraint and adjourn this case. However, it is clarified that we expect the Governments both Federal and Provincial to implement the directions already given in the judgment handed down in the case of Watan Party vs. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2011 SC 997).”
“In the meanwhile, the learned Attorney General and the Advocate General shall inform the Court about the steps which have been taken by both the Governments in order to fulfill their commitment, as has been noted herein above.”
“Before parting with the order, we may observe that the Provincial Government shall undertake the completion of surveillance system i.e. CCTV Cameras etc as early as possible and, if need be,they may seek the assistance and the help from the experts of other concerned departments so that the system is completed, installed and activated before the next date of hearing.”
“On behalf of Frontier Constabulary, a report has also been submitted wherein details have been mentioned for operational assistance being provided by the FC to Sindh Police. The same be placed on record for further consideration on the next date of hearing.”
The bench adjourned the hearing of the case till October 18.
Earlier, during the hearing, the CJP questioned the Director General Rangers Sindh, Major General Rizwan Akhtar that from where the weapons come from, it doesn’t fall from the sky.
On this, the DG Sindh Rangers replied that the issue of missing 19,000 arms containers came into limelight many years ago. He further told that those containers arrived and were opened during the time period of former minister for ports and shipping.
The same weapon is being used in Karachi and the city is burning due to the same reason. Moreover, different agencies are investigating about that ammunition, DG Rangers told.
He apprised the bench that local, German and American 9mm pistols are used in the targeted killings, and that the arms sent to the factories of Peshawar and Darra Adam Khel were imported.
Before the hearing, Bena Khalid- wife of a missing man named Khalid- staged a sit-in outside the Karachi Registry. The CJ took note of the protest and ordered the concerned authorities to solve her case.
The federal government submitted its report in the court in which it contended that a full-fledged operation in Lyari might open an additional front and could unleash a new wave of violence.
However, the federal government maintained that action should be taken against a group known as the Mohajir Republican Army.
The report was filed by the Attorney General for Pakistan on behalf of the Ministry of Interior.
The report said that over a period of time, criminal gangs had matured into formidable syndicates which had developed alliances with terrorist cells.
The federal government submitted that Karachi was confronted with multi-dimensional threats compounded by its rapid urbanisation and the major threats were in the form of terrorism, targeted assassinations, sectarian and ethnic killings besides other forms of organised crime.
Unfortunately, it said, that various facets of these syndicates had succeeded in developing political patronage in various forms. Being lucrative, crimes like smuggling narcotics, arms, land grabbing and extortion had become common and routine.
The report said that these alliances had cemented over the previous decade or so and extremely careful and responsible handling was required to disentangle the situation.