Any personnel of security forces found involved in cross-border smuggling will be court-martialed, Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti said on Monday.

“If I say that security forces weren’t involved in [smuggling], it won’t be right as the [smuggled] items are transported via trucks, not camels,” the interim security czar said during a press conference in Islamabad.

The government has intensified its crackdown on smugglers involved in transporting commodities and dollars to Afghanistan, especially in the last few months when havoc was wreaked on the economy.

The crackdown bore fruit as speculation diminished and the rupee recovered sharply against the greenback to become the best-performing currency globally, but analysts fear another round of depreciation as they are sceptical about the long-term effects of administrative measures.

He said that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir had told military personnel that whoever is found involved in illegal cross-border trade would face the music.

“Pakistan’s army chief had told his people very clearly: there won’t only be court-martials, but those involved in such activities would also be sent to jail,” the interior minister mentioned.

He told reporters that the army’s accountability mechanism is not made public and that’s why it is not in the knowledge of the masses.

“But the army has its own accountability [system], and we have not just seen it in this instance, but post-May 9 as well,” the interim interior minister noted.

Actions taken

The minister mentioned that the government was taking action against smugglers and that they were also appreciating law enforcers for their part in the crackdown on the people involved in illegal activities.

“The state will deal with hawala, hundi, and other illegal activities with an iron fist,” he said.

He said the authorities had recovered 8,000 metric tonnes of sugar, and action was also being taken against petrol pump stations for selling sub-standard fuel.

The minister said a database was being made of the trucks being used in smuggling.

Bugti said the government strongly discourages the usage of hawal and hundi. He mentioned that 168 FIRs have been registered against people involved in the dollar’s illegal trade.

Nawaz’s return 

The minister, in the same presser, mentioned that if Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif plans to return to the country and partake in politics, it would be “encouraging”.

“I am still saying, despite what PML-N leaders have said about me, that Nawaz Sharif is the leader who came back to the country with his daughter; if he was afraid of going to jail, he would not have come back.”

The interim interior minister claimed that the government has to treat every Pakistani citizen in line with the law and the same would be done with Nawaz, a three-time prime minister.

Bugti had invited strong criticism from the top PML-N leadership when he said that if Nawaz was not granted bail, then the authorities would arrest the former PM from the airport.

After hard-hitting statements from the PML-N leaders, the minister said his “statement was given a political colour out of context. The caretaker government has no political agenda”.


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2023-10-02

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