As per a press report, Balochistan government has asked the Establishment Division to suspend a senior superintendent of police and initiate departmental proceedings against him for facilitating smuggling of Iranian oil and earning millions per month.
Justified as the request appears to be, it does not go far enough in addressing the real issue. Petroleum Dealers Association reckons that Iranian oil accounts for 15-20 percent of the total fuel consumption in Pakistan. Nearly half of it is used within Balochistan while the rest is transported to Karachi via Dera Ghazi Khan.
Quoting a former law officer the report says Turbat is the place where oil tankers are filled with smuggled fuel for onward transportation and distribution. These details make it obvious that just one police officer could not be responsible for such large-scale smuggling, and haulage of the illicit commodity on provincial as well as inter-provincial routes.
It may be recalled that back in March last year, 40 people were burned to death and at least 30 others injured when a bus and an oil tanker collided in Gadani district, spilling oil on the road which caused a third passenger vehicle to skid and catch fire.
Media reports at the time had pointed out that smuggling of cheap Iranian oil went on openly in the province. It was being transported without a care for safety measures. Rooftop luggage racks of buses were seen packed with oil drums while many passengers carried the highly flammable commodity inside the vehicles.
Such large-scale illegal activity could not have been going on without the connivance of the police, provincial administration and other influential persons.
Hence, focusing on just one police officer is not going to end the problem of corruption. The blight is much more widespread. Considering that the Pak-Iran border is a little over 900 kilometres long and the terrain quite difficult at various points, it may not be possible for the FC and customs personnel to maintain vigilance everywhere.
But the main den of the smuggling activity is no secret, nor so the transportation mode and route. In fact, as noted earlier the activity goes on in plain sight. The smuggling racket clearly is quite extensive and beyond the control and capacity of an SSP.
It is not enough therefore for the provincial government to seek suspension of just one police officer. It must order a broader inquiry into the case and bring all culprits to justice. That won’t be easy given the kind of money that is to be had.
Still, it can be done with the help of agencies that presently are carrying out anti-corruption campaign in other parts of the country as some of the money made from this illegal activity may be going into terror financing.
In the meanwhile, the provincial government must ensure that passenger buses do not carry petrol drums and cans, endangering the lives of unsuspecting ordinary travellers. That should not be difficult to achieve.
Source: Business Recorder