Dollar smuggling is nothing new

Ever since the United States of America fled Afghanistan and a new regime took office there, we have been reading in newspapers about the US dollar being smuggled across the border from Pakistan. I have no way of knowing what exactly is happening on that front, but I would like to share my personal experience of what life was like in a similar context about 30 years ago which might be relevant to the current situation.

I was sitting in the office of one of the bank branch managers in Peshawar. I noticed that a person from the tribal belt sitting beside me was being treated rather royally and was being offered the choicest of snacks and refreshments. Once the man left the bank, I asked the manager out of curiosity the reason for such treatment. For sure, it was not a routine affair at all. The manager, who had a friendly equation with me, said that the man in question had a massive account worth millions of rupees that he was keeping with that bank branch.

That was 30 years ago. Today, people in such areas are coming to the banks with bags full of local money as well as dollars. Just imagine how they have managed to accumulate so much money. During my recent visit to the former tribal areas, I saw just about everyone maintaining a US dollar account. To my astonishment, even the local payments were being made in dollar terms. I know it sounds unbelievable, but that is what I personally saw.

Some banks have even opened ATMs for withdrawing dollars in far-flung villages. Dollar is today’s currency in these areas and they are buying the currency in local markets.

Will the authorities care to investigate what is going on in those areas, especially when we have a serious foreign exchange crisis, and the country is struggling to not just maintain, but also increase its reserves somehow? Logically, it should.



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