Peshawar: From Chaman in Balochistan to Swat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, step close to the border areas with Afghanistan and you could buy a luxury car for a song and keep it too. By law, you are not allowed to keep smuggled vehicles – locally called “Non-Custom Paid” or NCP vehicles that find their way across the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan – you only have to be someone with money to turn the illegal into legal. Or influence, like someone from the police department, for instance.
In what is clearly a case of law enforcers breaking the law, police officials from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including eight DSPs, four SPs, six SHOs and ASIs are using luxury cars and a variety of other vehicles confiscated by police in Peshawar in 2015, documents available with News Lens Pakistan reveal.
A high ranking custom official in Peshawar told News Lens Pakistan on condition of anonymity that 90 percent of vehicles confiscated by the Peshawar police department under section 550/523 were cars on which customs duty had not been paid.
The customs department that checks smuggling can easily impound these cars, he said, provided the police department shares with it accurate chassis numbers for verification.
“But the police department is not cooperating with us on this matter,” said the customs official. “A majority of the cars they use are NCP vehicles that have entered the country illegally from Afghanistan.”
Official statistics said the police seized 380 vehicles under sections 550/523 – laws under which suspected vehicles are impounded – in 2015 in the jurisdiction of different police stations. The police gave back some of these vehicles to owners after verification and due legal process. However, it has retained others including luxury foreign made cars. These for now under the use of high ranking police officers including DIGs, SPs, DSPs, ASIs and SIs, their gunners and relatives.
Capital City Police Chief Mubarak Zeb said he had no idea that policemen were keeping “case property” for their personal use. “Policemen are not allowed to use case property, if any official does so, he is liable for departmental inquiry or even dismissal from service.”
Police officers found involved in such practices, he said, were guilty of misusing their powers and liable to punishment. “I will probe it! And if I find any officer involved in misusing case property, I will take action against them,” said Zeb.
Another senior police officer said police were bound by law to protect case property vehicles confiscated under sections 550/523 and label each item installed in them to prove the charge under which the vehicle had been seized.
Tempering with case property or its personal use is tantamount to destroying evidence and hampering the law from taking its course. Minimum punishment for such violation is dismissal from service, said the official.
“Half the police force, ranging from moharrars and SHOs to senior officers would get dismissed if legal action is taken to protect the case property vehicles,” he said.
To investigate, News Lens obtained data for confiscated vehicles under use of certain high rank police officials in Peshawar through official sources. When cross-checked with the computerized database of the Customs Department, it revealed that Ex CCPO Ijaz Ahmad’s car (registration number: WJ-413), DSP Hayatabad Ateeq Shah’s car (registration number: LED-3150), ASP Gulbahar’s car (registration number: BC-3289), Inspector Ihsan Shah’s car (registration number: BC 3466) and SP Rural Shakir Bangash’s car (registration number:MF494) were found to be smuggled cars with no duty or taxes paid on them.
According to official statistics, from among the 380 case property vehicles confiscated in 2015, two cars are under the usage of EX CCPO Ijaz Khan, SP Rural Shakir Bangash has two, DSP Rokhan Zaib has two, SHO Himayat Khan has three, DSP Hayatbad Atiq Shah has one, SHO Deyar Khan has two, SHO Ghafar Khan has one and DSP Fazaldad has one case property car. The document says gunner of the suspended SDPO Malkand Abid ur Rehman also has a case property car.
An official of the Customs Department claimed that officials of the Excise Department also had NCP vehicles under their use. “Each and every official of Excise Department has a non-custom paid vehicle for personal use.”
He said officials of the Excise Department also sold non-custom paid cars at cheap prices in the market. “The Excise Department sold a car worth Rs 0.5 million rupees for Rs 80,000 rupees in auction.”
As per the law, police and other law enforcement agencies are required to hand over NCP vehicles to the Customs Department. But documents available with News Lens say 13, cops, including DIGs, DSPs, SPs, SHOs ASIs and Sis posted in the districts of Mardan, Nowshera, Swabi and Charsadda are using case property vehicles.
Official statistics say that in the last three years, 255 vehicles were seized by police in Mardan, 160 in Nowshera, 47 in Swabi and 92 in Charsadda.
Of these vehicles seized under sections 523/550, Superintendant Police Nowsher Khan has under his use two cars bearing registration number CAF-8221 and LED 450, District Police Officer Danishwar Khan is using LES-2525 which was confiscated by police in Takhtbhai on 10 May, 2012. DSP Pir Shahab is using a van bearing registration number 2034, DSP Abid Khan is using a car with registration number 9009, DPO Zeshan Raza has a car numbered LED 228, SP Iftikhar Khan’s car bears registration number 270, SP Sardar Khan has a car bearing registration number LXL-9618, DSP Khan Akbar uses a car with registration number LRZ 124, Senior Superintendant of Police Imran Shahid (currently posted at the Federal Investigation Agency) is using car LEE-8127, DSP Noor Jamal uses LZO 3255 and DSP Sajjad Khan is using car number LHW-4411.
Similarly Commandant Frontier Reserve Police is using a silver color Corolla confiscated under sections 523/550, SHO Farooq is using car number 831, Inspector Kamran, Inspector Fazal, DSP Legal Mardan, Sub Inspector Fazal Akbar, Inspector Mumtaz Bacha, DSP Nazir Khan, SI Umrad Ali, Inspector Legal Iftikhar, DSP Special Branch Sajjad, DSP Farid Bangash, SI Luqman, DPO Zeshan Raza, DSP Saleem Daad, DSP Ghulam Habib, DSP Khalid Nasim, Ex-DPO Tahir Ayub, SP Ghulam Habib, Inspector Shoaib and many other officials are also using case property vehicles.
An official from the Customs Department said drivers, personal assistants, gunners and other relatives of high ranking policemen were using case property vehicles.
A high ranking official of the Peshawar Custom Collectorate, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to media, said legally, the police department is bound to hand over impounded vehicles to the Custom Department under a Supreme Court of Pakistan order. The order says no matter what offence such vehicles are used in, the first offence committed is that the car has entered the country illegally – either through unauthorized route or evading customs duties and other taxes. In the last 15 years, such cars have been used in terrorism incidents all over the country, making it hard for law enforcers to trace owners and real perpetrators of acts of terrorism.
“Police uses tactics to keep the vehicles so they register cases under sections 523/550 which means that they can treat the vehicle as “suspected of being smuggled” as opposed to a real smuggled car,” said the official from the Customs Department.
He suggested that the police when registering a case under Section 523/550, should first convey vehicles’ data to the Customs Department to check the status of the vehicle – whether it is smuggled or not. If the vehicle is found smuggled, it should be immediately handed over to the Customs Department for auction and revenue to the state exchequer.
“Only when the Customs Department declares a vehicle to be duty-paid should other formalities of Section 523/550 be carried out,” he said.
About the loss to national treasury, the official said that after seizure of NCP vehicles, the officials of Custom Department calculate value of cars and add duty taxes before auction to generate revenue.
“Using NCP vehicles mean deliberately causing loss to the national exchequer,” said the official.
An official of police department said that policemen and personals of other law enforcement agencies often purchase smuggled cars for a low price and use it illegally without any fear of the law because no one dare stop them.
While police official like SHOs are required to patrol in police vans, those in Peshawar frequently use luxury cars for patrolling.
Moreover, since smuggled vehicles do not have formal documentation such as shipment details and proof of ownership, they go uninspected by the local customs office and unregistered by the excise department. They can be easily smuggled to different parts of the country.
Residents of seven districts of the Malakand Division including Swat, Shangla, Buner, Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Chitral and Malakand have been using the NCP vehicles for the past many years due to the special status of Malakand as a tax-free zone.
A police officer said that NCP vehicles were used throughout the province and as many as 10 percent of the vehicles are on roads in different districts of KP were smuggled. “But the users, often government officials, businessmen and politicians, enjoy influence and cannot be busted easily.”