Pakistan strongly condemns Houthi drone attack on Saudi Aramco facilities

Smoke billows from an Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq about 60km (37 miles) southwest of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province on Sept. 14, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 September 2019

Pakistan strongly condemns Houthi drone attack on Saudi Aramco facilities

  • Foreign office says such acts of sabotage cannot be condoned
  • Pakistan’s political leaders say the country is ready “to take any step” for the safety and security of Saudi Arabia

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday issued a strong condemnation of the drone attack on two Saudi oil processing facilities, Buqayq and the Khurais oil field, which had caused fire and damage.
Yemen’s Houthi group claimed responsibility for the attacks on the two facilities in the kingdom’s Eastern province on Saturday, the group’s military spokesman said on Al-Masirah TV.
“Such acts to sabotage and disrupt commercial activities causing fear and terror cannot be condoned,” a statement issued by Pakistan’s Foreign Office said.
“Pakistan reiterates its full support and solidarity with the brotherly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against any threat to its security and territorial integrity,” it further stated.
PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq, who is leader of the opposition in the Senate, told Arab News that Pakistan was “ready” to safeguard Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty.
“Saudi Arabia has the right to act in self defense,” Haq said. 
“Pakistan is ready to take any step for the safety and security of Saudi Arabia,” he said and added that countries who “claim to be friends of Saudi Arabia should stand by it to stop such attacks on the sovereignty...of the country.”
Latif Khosa, Former Governor of Punjab province and a central leader of Pakistan Peoples Party, told Arab News that it was increasingly dangerous that militant groups like Houthis had got their hands on drones.
“World powers should support Saudis against such militant groups,” Khosa said.
He added that Pakistanis had “special respect for Saudis” and that the kingdom could bank on Pakistan.
The broadcaster, Al-Masirah TV, said the Houthis had deployed 10 drones against the sites in Abqaiq and Khurais, and the group pledged to widen the range of its attacks on Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition fighting them in Yemen.
Dr. Abdul Ghaffar Aziz, Director International Affairs of Pakistan's religious-politico party, Jamat-i-Islami, said the attacks must be condemned across the table.
“All the countries of the region, whether they are friends of Saudi Arabia or have differences with them, should condemn this militant attack which cannot be justified in any case,” he told Arab News.
Khalid Rehman, Director General of the Institute of Policy Studies Islamabad, said it was unfortunate that the Houthis were spreading unrest in Yemen and attacking sovereign countries.
“The whole Muslim world should join hands with Saudi Arabia to stop such evil forces and to bring peace in Yemen as well as the region,” Rehman said.

Pakistan probes multibillion-rupee losses from cargo misdeclaration

Updated 04 February 2020

Pakistan probes multibillion-rupee losses from cargo misdeclaration

  • Incidents of fraud reported at Torkham, Quetta and Karachi customs stations
  • Automation of the system needed to prevent corruption in duty collection, experts say 

KARACHI: Pakistan’s tax authorities are investigating a series of fraud incidents at the country’s main customs stations, which inflicted multibillion-rupee losses on Pakistan’s economy, an official confirmed on Sunday.

Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) spokesman Hamid Ateeq Sarwar told Arab News an investigation “is underway” and its findings will be shared with the public. 

The FBR’s Directorate General of Customs Intell­igence and Investigation, in early January, uncovered a case involving a network of top officials suspected of a large-scale practice of cargo misdeclaration which it estimates resulted in state losses of billions of rupees.

A report by the directorate sent to the FBR chairman indicated that “organized fraudulent activity (is) taking place at Torkham Customs station through which foreign origin goods are being smuggled.” An initial investigation disclosed that 110 vehicles carrying imported goods have passed the checkpoint on the border with Afghanistan uncharged, the document seen by Arab News reads. 

Similar incidents of misdeclaration were detected in Karachi and Quetta, where more than 900 containers were cleared without paying duties. 

Customs experts are calling for all officials involved in the incidents to be punished. “No matter how influential those involved are they should be given exemplary punishment so that such incidents are prevented in future,” Abdul Qadir Memon, lawyer and former president of the Karachi Tax Bar Association, said.

While corruption appears to be the main obstacle to the FBR’s sound functioning, according to Memon, the problem could be solved by technology. “Automation of the system and installation of scanners at customs stations is key to eliminating corrupt practices. Improvement in the audit system may prevent under-invoicing,” he told Arab News.

The incidents of mass fraud are yet another blow to the FBR, which at the same time is facing a leadership crisis, with its chairman Syed Shabbar Zaidi’s health reportedly deteriorating due to acute stress.

The FBR is also facing a shortfall of around Rs218 billion against its revised revenue target of Rs2.62 trillion set for the July 2019–January 2020 period. 

All these result in an atmosphere of uncertainty, which “is the worst one can afford at this moment. Revenue mobilization is necessary for Pakistan’s economic viability as a state,” taxation expert Dr. Ikram ul Haq told Arab News.

The developments raise concerns over the International Monetary Fund (IMF) second quarterly review of Pakistan’s $6 billion bailout program. IMF representatives arrived in Islamabad on Monday.