Misuse of imported car facility by diplomats


Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Pakistani press reported few days ago that many foreign diplomats have continuously been misusing their privileges available under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and selling duty-free imported luxury vehicles to local businessmen, and in some cases, to their near and dear ones.  As reports suggest, Pakistan Customs seized very expensive vehicles, four from possession of a single person, that were imported by foreign diplomats but were in the use of private persons. This has not only caused a Rs250-million revenue loss in these cases but also put the security of other diplomats at risk due to the use of fake or duplicate diplomatic number plates.

The sources claim, the second list of persons involved in this illegal business is in the process of finalization and shall be shared with media as soon as it gets a green light from the high ups. Few months back, we had also pin pointed various mafias working in the diplomatic enclave, either in the garb of businessmen, real estate agents; lawyers and even media people. Such people tend to invest in diplomats with a view to cultivating closer ties and then use these relations for illegal businesses such as getting liquor quotas; purchase of cars and in some cases getting visas.

The recent car scandal is not a new phenomenon. This practice goes on perhaps ever since the establishment of diplomatic missions in Pakistan however with the passage of time this trend seems to have declined mainly because of strict checks and balances within the foreign missions and continuous warnings from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan. It also remains a fact that all this wrong doing cannot be done without the help of Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials. In recent past the high ups took cognizance of this and similar other matters and consequently those involved in illegal practices were shown the door.

A protocol officer of the foreign office was proceeded against for charging heavy amount from embassies officials for issuing permits of importing tones of liquor on the names of diplomats. The senior officer’s act caused losses worth billions of rupees by food and beverage permits to foreign embassies in Islamabad. Likewise a couple of officers were fired for issuing Note Verbal to various embassies for issuance of visas and thus got huge sums in return from the visa seekers. Visas are ostensibly a tricky business and involve huge financial implications. We have heard from reliable sources that some of the embassies also removed their staff involved in issuing visas after taking money.

We will share more details about such mafias and their network in the coming days. Coming back to cars issues, after publication of this news the embassies have cautioned their staff to immediately de-register all such cars. In some cases the heads of missions have asked their staff if anybody wants to buy car he or she can do so but the car shall remain in his or her use. A strict vigilance shall be ensured in all such cases. It is also a fact that those involved in this nasty business are very small in numbers yet as it goes one bad fish spoils the whole pond.

One should hope that the quarters concerned shall enforce strict measures in order to put an end to this business for it badly tarnishes image of the foreign mission involved. Likewise, the Pakistani authorities also need to exercise extra care and monitoring so that such incidents are not allowed to happen. Being the host country, greater onus lies on our shoulders for without local support and patronage foreigner cannot do anything.  Ministry of Foreign Affairs therefore needs to play a lead role in fight against this menace.