Lasting about a week now, a growing strike by container carriers is stoking fears that the garment industry in Pakistan might begin to suffer.
The carriers have been striking for about a week now, protesting a decision by law enforcement authorities to suspend thirteen customs group officers for their alleged involvement in the illegal removal of thirty-five containers at Port Muhammad Qasim without filing the appropriate paperwork.
The Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) placed the officers under suspension until a more thorough investigation could be completed. At least at this preliminary stage of investigation, it has been determined that the containers, which were supposed to be filed with auto-parts, were also transporting other illicit goods. According to the charges, the customs officers knowingly shielded the containers from inspections, potentially costing billions of rupees in duties collection.
It’s not yet clear how the costs of the strike will be passed on to exporters, already hurt by rising energy and transportation costs. If a resolution to the strikes in the near future proves elusive, there are other avenues of transportation that could be explored, like the railway.
These cases are not always easy to conclusively settle expeditiously. A similar case in 2007, in which 187 containers went missing, is still being fought in the courts. Those containers were never found.