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Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) will finalise a plan for establishing border markets to curb smuggling and generate economic activity at border areas of Balochistan, issuing tax holiday notifications for Gwadar Port, strengthening customs operations at border terminals and implementing new anti-smuggling strategy.

Sources told Business Recorder that the decisions have been taken in the last meeting of the National Development Council (NDC) which took key decisions for the Balochistan Development Plan. Under the Balochistan Development Plan, the NDC has also decided to establish Saudi oil refinery at Gwadar, improve security in border areas of Balochistan by completing fencing at borders, facilitate exploration of oil and gas resources in Balochistan and establish a port at Gaddani.

The NDC has decided that the FBR customs department and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) would strengthen their operations at border terminals and intensify anti-smuggling drive, while the Ministry of Interior would improve security in border areas of Balochistan by completing fencing at borders.

According to the plan, it has been decided to improve security in the border regions by completing fencing, improving border terminals and converting B-areas into A-Areas. For law enforcement, the province is divided into 'A' and 'B' areas. The 'A' area comprises some five percent of Balochistan, and is entrusted to the police; the remaining 95 percent 'B' area is handled by the Levies.

It has also been decided to enhance the control of motorway police on highway in Balochistan and repatriate Afghan refugees.

The meeting decided provision of funds approved for fencing to be ensured by Finance Division and Ministry of Planning and Development.

Customs and the FIA would strengthen operations at the border terminal and deployment of NH&MP is to be enhanced on highways in Balochistan.

Ministry of Planning, Development & Reform (MoPD&R) would evaluate the proposal of additional budgetary support for development and mitigating deficit for Balochistan in the light of available fiscal space and to come up with options.

The meeting decided that the federal government would take measures to ensure recruitments of locals in public sector jobs against the federal government's posts in lower grades in Balochistan.

For improving road infrastructure in Balochistan, the NDC decided that the (MoPD&R) would consult National Highway Authority (NHA) to work out options for developing Karachi-Quetta-Chamman motorway. The adequate funding for the ongoing highway projects in Balochistan to be ensured.

The NDC has given one month period to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs to evaluate the proposal of developing coastal areas by setting up a port at Gaddani.

For the establishment of the National Coastal Area Development Authority to develop and promote tourism in coastal areas, the concept has been approved. Ministry of Maritime Affairs will consult the government of Balochistan and chairman National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) to finalise structure and legal framework.

The meeting also decided to improve conditions for fisheries industry and protecting marine resources.

The meeting also decided to give two weeks time to the FBR for resolving pending issues related to the development of Gwadar Port. The FBR will expedite issuance of tax holiday notification. The FBR will issue the Transit and Transshipment Rules within one month period. The human resource and technical capacity of customs will be enhanced. The FBR has also been assigned to set up a chemicals identification lab.

The meeting directed the provincial government to look into the possibility of waiving sales tax for the port operators. It has been decided that the Pakistan Navy would make land available for the free zone and port in Gwadar.

For developing minerals and mining sector in Balochistan, the government of Balochistan would take necessary action. The proposed strategy was approved in principle along with proposed model to encourage investment by private sector in large-scale mining. The government of Balochistan would formulate a formal proposal for seeking federal government's assistance to enhance capacity in minerals and mining sectors.

The meeting also decided to encourage exploration of oil and gas resources in Balochistan and resolve issues relating to the resource sharing and pending liabilities. A committee headed by advisor to PM on finance and representatives of government of Balochistan, Law Division and other relevant stakeholders to propose a way forward in the light of constitutional provisions post 18th amendment.

The NDC has directed Ministry of Petroleum to ensure aggressive follow-up on implementing the commitment made through an MoU signed for establishing Saudi Oil Refinery at Gwadar.

The FBR, Communication Division and Government of Balochistan would firm up a proposal for establishing border markets to be presented on priority to curb smuggling and generate economic activity in border areas.

For implementing the Balochistan Development Plan, the meeting decided that in light of the development plan presented during the meeting, MoPD&R in consultation with the government of Balochistan will evaluate and prioritise interventions requiring assistance from the federal government and suggest possible funding options keeping in view the available resource envelope.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

the author

Sohail Sarfraz is the Chief Reporter in Islamabad. He has been with the paper for over a decade and his contributions to reports on tax related matters as well as Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan are recognized and appreciated not only by his readers but also by his colleagues in other media outlets.