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Dubai Frequent Air Route for Mobile Smuggling into Pakistan

Dubai Frequent Air Route for Mobile Smuggling into Pakistan.

Mobile Smuggling Rings Under Scrutiny: Dubai Flights and Border Crossings Top the List

A recent report by the federal government has revealed a glaring vulnerability in Pakistan’s borders: rampant mobile phone smuggling, with Dubai emerging as the most frequent air route for this illicit activity.

Sources claim airports in Peshawar, Sialkot, Faisalabad, and Karachi are particularly targeted.

But air travel isn’t the only avenue. Land borders, particularly Angoor Adda and Chaman, are allegedly being exploited by porters, children, and even “Laghris” (petty smugglers) to sneak in mobile phones.

Read More: Mobile Phone Imports Cross Rs177 Billion in FY24

The sheer volume of daily crossings at Chaman’s Friendship Gate, with around 1,500 Laghris each carrying one or two phones, paints a concerning picture.

The report goes further, alleging collusion between over 80 officials and 46 smugglers/92 dealers. This organized network, facilitated by “unscrupulous elements” with the “active support” of law enforcement officials, is at the heart of the mobile smuggling problem.

The Prime Minister’s Secretariat, in response to these allegations, has directed the FBR and other departments to conduct thorough fact-finding inquiries. The report, with its categorical recommendations, is expected to inform decisive action against this illegal activity that not only hurts the economy but also poses security risks.

Mobile Smuggling Slashes National Purse: $1.1 Billion Lost in One Year

Phone fraudsters are draining the national piggy bank. According to the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI), mobile phone smuggling siphoned a staggering $1.1 billion from the Pakistani exchequer in FY 2021-22. This brazen theft comes even as Pakistan celebrates a remarkable surge in phone connectivity, thanks to massive foreign investment in the telecom sector.

Read More: Mobile Phones Costing Rs 33 Billion Imported in August 2023

Pakistan’s teledensity, a measure of phone penetration, shot from a measly 2.5% in 2002 to a whopping 80% in 2023. This booming demand, roughly 36 million phones strong, is unfortunately being met through a mix of sources, including:

  • 21.94 million units from local manufacturing
  • 1.53 million units from imports
  • 12.53 million units from smuggling

The skyrocketing demand for pricier phones, fueled by steep import taxes and a surging dollar, has created a fertile ground for smugglers. These crooks are capitalizing on the price gap, lining their pockets at the expense of the national revenue and fair competition.

Undercutting the System: How Smugglers Steal Billions and Flood Markets

Smuggled phones aren’t just cheaper, they’re a billion-rupee heist hitting the national treasury. The gap between legal import costs and smuggled prices offers smugglers a lucrative playground, allowing them to flood local markets with cheaper smart devices. This shady business bleeds the exchequer of billions annually.

Smugglers’ Arsenal:

  • Air Routes: Dubai tops the list, feeding smuggled phones into airports like Peshawar, Sialkot, Faisalabad, and Karachi.
  • Land Crossings: Angoor Adda and Chaman border crossings see 1,500 “Laghris” (petty smugglers) daily, each carrying one or two phones across the border.

Making Smuggled Phones “Legit”:

  • IMEI Patching: Smugglers replace shiny new phone IMEIs with those from old, cheap handsets to bypass regulatory checks. Popular targets include Samsung, Vivo, Oppo, and OnePlus.
  • Software Solutions: Some shopkeepers use the infamous CPID software (easily found online) to change IMEI numbers, offering “patched” phones at cutthroat prices.

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