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Old Friday, January 07, 2011
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Default Social Problems in Pakistan

I will post the social problems one by one.

SMUGGLING

Definition:

To import or export without paying lawful customs charges or duties

Smuggling severely harms the economy of a country in multidimensional ways. It undermines the local industry, discourages legal imports and reduces the volume of revenues collected from duties and levies by the state. Unfortunately a parallel underground economy has taken roots in Pakistan. A major proportion of the revenue to be collected by the Government is being lost, over and above the adverse impact that the smuggled items cause to our industry. Obviously this can not be done without connivance of the corrupt officials including those in the law enforcement agencies and every one is aware of it but no action is being taken.

Markets and Shops across the country are flooded with smuggled goods of any and all descriptions. Smuggled items through the borders of Iran, Afghanistan, China, and the Afghan Transit Trade form a major part of the informal economy volume of which ranges between 50 to 60 per cent of the formal economy. Smuggling has assumed an alarming proportion and turned out to be a parallel economy, which is depriving the country of its rightful levies including excise and customs duty worth hundreds of billions of Rupees. Thousands of industrial units have been rendered sick, due to the availability of smuggled goods in open markets. Afghan Transit Trade is the main source of smuggling into Pakistan and its annual volume has been estimated about five to six billion dollars, about 70% of the total smuggling causing a revenue loss of about 2.5 to 3 billion dollars annually (which has been almost tripled during 2008-2010) to the national exchequer. Afghan imports under Afghan Transit Trade are actually arranged for back smuggling into Pakistan with the help of Afghan traders. It is not possible to determine the precise amount of revenue loss and size of black money or shifting of money abroad. Revenue loss on account of smuggling of Afghan transit trade alone, as estimated by the World Bank, amounted to US$ 35 billion during nine years from 2001 to 2009. Smuggling has now become a routine part of all economic activities in Pakistan which hardly raises any eye brows nor stirs the slightest fear of the law. Pakistan is facing the challenge of measuring and countering enormous revenue leakages and black money — its size estimated to be three time the regular economy. People are bringing in Pakistan petroleum products from Iran which is cheaper than in Pakistan. The volume of this trade is estimated to about rupees two billions. Even improvised explosive devices are being smuggled via Afghanistan are contributing to a climate of fear. Smuggled materials help militants prepare suicide jackets, explosive-laden vehicles and other sorts of explosive bombs. Involvement of Pakistan customs officials in this smuggling racket cannot be ruled out. With their connivance the containers registered in the name of NATO containing alcohol, expensive spices and other contraband items are also offloaded in Pakistan.

Another gateway for smuggling i.e. Afghan Transit Trade through Wahga Border has been opened by the present regime which would result in a big chunk of Indian goods destined for Afghanistan would ultimately land in our domestic market, which would damage the national economy of Pakistan which is already dwindling because of the impact of the war on terror and Afghan transit trade.

It is no secret that Pakistani tax evaders have been transferring to Swiss banks huge amounts of money generated through illegal activities by some politicians, bureaucrats, terrorist networks and businessmen to Swiss banks. White-collar crimes are also responsible for facilitating transfer of capital towards informal economy either from the black market or the formal economy with the connivance of FRB’s officials. Due to Pakistan’s low productivity resulting from massive exemptions, poor administration, low threshold, and lack of transparency and enforcement, the country faces a massive challenge of balancing low revenues and the avaricious politicians, corrupt bureaucrats, and greedy businessmen, who are mostly crook, corrupt and tax evaders, succeed to remit this black money to their hidden accounts in Switzerland and other European countries.

On the one hand parallel economy in Pakistan is growing at an alarming rate of 20 percent per annum and on the other hand, according to an estimate, the money lying in Swiss banks of Pakistanis has reached to the tune of US $200 billion. The volume of black money generated in the year 2008-09 alone has been measured by the independent sources which is not less than $ 40 billion. The rent-seekers and beneficiaries of loan write-offs in Pakistan have also shifted funds worth billions of dollars to Switzerland.

To curtail the existing high volume of smuggling through Afghan Transit Trade Pakistan needs to revise the transit agreement. Both the countries should also reach on a uniform taxation mechanism on imports. Anti-smuggling and anti-corruption laws need to be strengthened and their implementation in letter and spirit through a dedicated staff should be ensured. Pakistani policy-makers must realize that a sound development strategy seeks to reduce the size of the informal economy and bring into the open resources that lie in the form of black money. FBR should remove distortions from the economy, bring all the sectors and taxpayers in the tax net, curtail smuggling, curb parallel economy, and take all the stakeholders into confidence and make it business friendly. At the same time, it should rationalize the taxation system to attract the influential industrialists to pay taxes. Measures should also be taken to discourage under-invoicing and proper documentation of economy should take place to bring the informal economy under the tax net. According to an estimate, presently tax evaders in Pakistan annually deprive the country of revenue of over US $20 billion in aggregate but the government, instead of putting them behind bars, encourages their unlawful activities.

After signing Avoidance of Double Taxation Treaty with Switzerland, it is now possible to retrieve the looted funds if the government under its Article 25(1), Pakistan should also seek information regarding Pakistanis maintaining accounts in Switzerland as has been done by many other countries in recent past. A good thing in fresh legislation of Switzerland is that now burden of proving that the money came from legal sources would lie with the allegedly corrupt official, rather than the Swiss state. If the official could not prove a legitimate origin of his or her Swiss assets, they would be confiscated by the Swiss state.

The Government should take immediate steps to retrieve this black money which will surely discourage the smuggling tendency also
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Old Tuesday, January 18, 2011
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INFANTICIDE

This is a news piece highlighting a rising social problem in our country.



The lifeless bodies of two tiny babies are being given their final bath before burial in Karachi, after they were left to die in the southern Pakistani city’s garbage dumps.

“They can only have been one or two days old,” says volunteer worker Mohammad Saleem, pointing at the two small corpses being gently washed by his colleagues at a charity’s morgue.

In the conservative Muslim nation, where the birth of children outside of marriage is condemned and adultery is a crime punishable by death under strict interpretations of Islamic law, infanticide is a crime on the rise.

More than 1,000 infants – most of them girls – were killed or abandoned to die in Pakistan last year according to conservative estimates by the Edhi Foundation, a charity working to reverse the grim trend.

The infanticide figures are collected only from Pakistan’s main cities, leaving out huge swathes of the largely rural nation, and the charity says that in December alone it found 40 dead babies left in garbage dumps and sewers.

The number of dead infants found last year – 1,210 – was up from 890 in 2008 and 999 in 2009, says the Edhi Foundation manager in Karachi, Anwar Kazmi.

Tragic tales abound.

Kazmi recounts the discovery of the burnt body of a six-day-old infant who had been strangled. Another child was found on the steps of a mosque having been stoned to death on the orders of an extremist imam who has since disappeared, he says.

“Do not murder, lay them here,” reads a sign hanging outside the charity’s Karachi base where it has left cradles in the hope that parents will abandon their unwanted children there, instead of leaving them to die.

“People leave these children mostly because they think they are illegitimate, but they are as innocent and loveable as all human beings,” says the charity’s founder, well-known humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi.

Most children found are less than a week old.

Khair Mohammad, 65, works as a watchman in the charity’s vast graveyard in the city outskirts. It is dotted with tiny unnamed graves.

“We acquired this land to bury children after another plot was filled with hundreds of bodies,” he says.
The death toll is far worse among girls, says manager Kazmi, with nine out of ten dead babies the charity finds being female.

“The number of infanticides of girls has substantially increased,” Kazmi says, a rise attributed to increased poverty across the country.

Girls are seen by many Pakistanis as a greater economic burden as most women are not permitted to work and are considered to be the financial responsibility of their fathers, and later their husbands.

A Pakistani family can be forced to raise more than one million rupees (11,700 dollars) to marry their daughter off.

Edhi says that up to 200 babies are left in its 400 cradles nationwide each year and that it handles thousands of requests for adoption by childless couples.

Abortion is prohibited in Pakistan, except when the mother’s life is at risk from her pregnancy, but advocates say that legalisation would reduce infanticide and save mothers from potentially fatal back-street terminations.

According to Pakistani law, anyone found to have abandoned an infant can be jailed for seven years, while anyone guilty of secretly burying a child can be imprisoned for two years. Murder is punishable with life imprisonment.

But crimes of infanticide are rarely prosecuted.

“The majority of police stations do not register cases of infanticide, let alone launch investigations into them,” said lawyer Abdul Rasheed.
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