Protest sit-ins bring Customs House activities to a stand still

Activities at Customs House, Karachi remained standstill for last three days, resulting in revenue and trade losses to the tune of over Rs 8 billion. The protesters mainly belong to one of the religious political party, came on roads across the country and started staging protest demonstrations after the apex court’s decision regarding the release of Aasia Bibi in blasphemy case on October 31.

Resultantly, all major markets in the city remained closed however shops in inner lanes in many localities were witnessed partially opened. The public transport remained thin during last three days, creating immense difficulties for commuters in reaching their desired destinations. Fuel and gas stations in many areas were also seen closed and their premises covered with tents in a bid to avert any kind of loss.

In the absence of goods carriers, the import cargo could not leave the port area and similarly no export cargo could be reached at ports as transporters were reluctant to ply their vehicles on main arteries. The customs offices remained opened with very thin attendance but there was no clearance of cargo because importers and their clearing agents did not file Goods Declarations, due to non-availability of goods carriers, sources said.

They further said the average revenue collection per day of custom department was stood at around Rs 2 billion hence the accumulated revenue loss was estimated to around Rs 6 billion during last three days.

Commenting on trade losses, due to ongoing protest demonstrations in Karachi, Arshad Jamal, senior vice chairman All Pakistan Customs Agents Association (APCAA) said that outward cargo movement from ports was around 6000 containers per day and the trade had to pay around US$ 100-120 on each container per day as demurrages and detention charges.

Replying to a question, he said the backlog of containers piled up to around 18000 containers due to ongoing protest demonstrations and it would take 15 days to normalcy, if the protests were called off immediately else the business community would suffer more financial shocks in terms of demurrages, high transportation charges.

Furthermore he could not rule out the possibilities of the cancellation of exports orders if these protests would go beyond this week. Arshad also urged the customs authorities to restrict terminals and shipping lines not to impose extra charges for next two weeks to avoid further financial loss to the trade.