Customs at Karachi airport have seized a consignment of leather garments containing ‘red fox’ and ‘Asiatic jackal’ fur trimmings on July 25 this year, besides issuing an Order-in-original (OIO) No2/2012 dated September 12 this year against an exporter, confiscating the goods, they said. Several leather garments export consignments were pending because of “this unjust ruling” by customs officials, exporters said.

“Pakistan may lose export orders worth millions of dollars booked for the Christmas season because of the customs authorities’ irrational attitude,” they added. Leather garment exports declined by more than 20% during the first two months (July-August) of the current fiscal year against export figures for the same period last year, exporters said. Exports during the past fiscal year (2012) were already down by 16%, they added.

“We have approached all senior officials of the Federal Board of Revenue, Ministry of Commerce, Trade Development Authority Pakistan. However, despite our efforts, exports leather garments with fur trimmings are not being allowed.” They said that Leather Garments Manufacturers & Exporters Association (PLGMEA) had also sent a letter to the TDAP Chief, Chairman of FBR and the Secretary Commerce.

Fawad Ijaz Khan, Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Leather Garments Manufacturers & Exporters Association (PLGMEA) criticised the customs officials’ attitude and said that export of leather garments with fur trimmings was allowed for the past 25 years, adding that this problem had first cropped up during 1999 since the export policy at that time did not allow export of fur of any wild animal. However, the ministry of commerce in its Trade Policy 2006 amended this and export of furs of only endangered species was restricted, he pointed out.

He clarified that Red Fox and Asiatic Jackal “are neither endangered species in Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for Pakistan nor are these species protected under provincial wildlife laws”. “Only India has included Red Fox and Asiatic Jackal in Appendix III of CITES as endangered within its jurisdiction and an export permit is required only for Export from India,” he added. Export of red fox and Asiatic jackal fur from Pakistan “can be made on production of Certificate of Origin”, Fawad said.

Fawad alleged that custom officials demanded bribes for the release of detained consignment and upon refusal; they harassed exporters besides confiscating the shipment. Customs officials, he said, had also involved the Sindh Wildlife Department in the scam, adding that recently the provincial wildlife department wrote a letter to customs officials, urging that such shipments should not be allowed for export.

To resolve the issue, PLGMEA held a meeting with the collector of customs (exports) in a bid to clarify the position, which they refused to accept. PLGMEA also referred the matter to the provincial ombudsman. After conducting several hearings with the exporter and Sindh Wildlife official, the ombudsman found PLGMEA’s plea justified. On September 19, the ombudsman ordered that the letter issued by conservator of the Sindh Wildlife Department addressed to the assistant collector of customs had no legal effect and was null and void, Fawad said.

Asad Ashraf Malik, the provincial ombudsman, also ordered the chief secretary of Sindh to take action against corrupt Wildlife Officials, besides telling FIA to initiate a probe against custom officials. Fawad Ijaz requested the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to intervene in this matter and immediately release confiscated shipments and also allow export of other shipments of leather garments with fur trimmings.

“We have also discussed the matter with collector of customs (exports) Jawad Agha on September 26 and persuaded him that PLGMEA has provided all relevant documents to support the fact that no NOC is required for export of leather garments with red fox or Asiatic jackal fur trimmings,” he said. However, the collector said that in the presence of a standing order-in-original, he could not allow the export. Fawad also demanded of the Chairman FBR to dismiss the assistant collector of customs (exports) at Karachi airport, saying that they were creating hurdles in the way of the export of leather garments.