The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has made it mandatory for all inbound/outbound passengers to declare currency and other valuables in a prescribed form that is handed out to all passengers. Customs authorities are required to collect and check its veracity with each passenger.
Customs officials first check the passport of the passenger, which has many details that have to be written all over again in the said form, like date of birth, nationality, address, etc., and then they check the form as well. What is the point?
Similarly, other information being asked through the form is irrelevant, such as flight date, flight time, flight number, destination, airport of departure and arrival (why ‘arrival’ when one is landing in Pakistan?), primary contact number in Pakistan, purpose of visit, etc.
Then there is a list of declarations, like gold, jewellery, precious/semi-precious stones, any other declaration to be made to Customs, which is a bit vague. All this is a lot of hassle for even those who can fill out the form themselves, but what about those who cannot? And there are many.
In fact, keeping in view our demographic profile of overseas Pakistanis, especially in the Gulf region, the majority of passengers happen to be the ones who cannot fill out such forms on their own. Their plight is not what the CAA seems to realise one bit. Besides, owing to their incapacity, such passengers seek help from others and then struggle to explain the officials in case there is a discrepancy in the form because it has been filled up by someone else in a hurry. This adds to passenger backlog on airports, resulting in frustration and undeserved misery to the rest of the travellers.
As per the government, it is the requirement of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Is this form being filled at all other international airports outside Pakistan? Doesn’t the government consider the difficulties and limitations of our passenger profile on international flights, or the international community is actually so dumb?
Besides, this new condition for all passengers is bound to create yet another opportunity for officials of different shades and hues to make some quick bucks by way of harassment and delays.
The government should withdraw this notice and do away with this condition of filling the most absurd of forms by all inbound/outbound passengers, for it is bound to create chaos at airports and more hassles for passengers, especially those who are not able to fill the form on their own.
ZAFAR HASAN KHAN