Pakistani expatriates have complained they are not getting the incentives promised by the Pakistan government - and widely propagated by its missions in the UAE - for sending money through normal banking channels.

A number of community members who have recently come back after spending vacations in Pakistan said: "We felt cheated because the promises which were made in the 'remittance incentive scheme' launched in September last year are not being met, despite the fact we have been sending money through legal banking channels."

Non-fulfilment of incentives announced in the remittance scheme has left the community members fuming as they feel they have once again been fooled by the 'bureaucratic tricks'.

They said it was claimed in the incentive scheme that those who would remit a certain amount of money through legal channels would get duty free allowances, special handling while arriving and departing from the Pakistani airports, special quota in colleges and housing schemes, and a lot more - but unfortunately none of them have been met so far.

The remittance scheme was implemented so harshly that the Pakistani missions in UAE made it compulsory for every Non-Resident Pakistani (NRPs) to show a receipt of at least Dh300 remitted to Pakistan at the time of the renewal of passports or getting any other consular service.

Another community member in Dubai said he remitted money equal to $10,000 which, as per the scheme, qualified him for getting duty free allowances of $1200.

"I took one air-conditioner with me this summer but ended up paying duty at the Lahore International Airport.

"I was stunned when the customs official told me that air-conditioner is one of the compulsory dutiable items and is not included in the incentive package," he added.

Investigation conducted by Gulf News, after receiving several complaints from the community members, revealed the information given about the incentive scheme was flawed.

At no stage, either in the information brochure about the scheme or at the functions organised by the Pakistani missions to apprise the community about the scheme, did they mention the compulsory dutiable items.

Going by the remittance scheme incentive, the overseas Pakistanis who remit $2,500 or more to Pakistan through the normal banking channels during one year preceding their date of arrival in the country, are eligible for a duty free allowance of $700 once a year.

A special duty free allowance of up to $1200 was announced for those Pakistanis who remit $10,000 or more to Pakistan through normal banking channels during one year preceding their date of arrival in the country.

Those who send money are issued two types of cards. Silver Card is issued to people who remit $2,500 and a Gold Card is issued to those who remit $10,000.

Holders of these cards are supposed to get facilities and benefits offered in the package.

Getting cards itself is a hectic task. Those who send remittances are supposed to keep a record of remittances and get them entered on a passport size green colour Remittance Book, provided to them by the Pakistani missions.

The booklet is supposed to be available at the Pakistani banks and exchange centres, but people found it very difficult to get such books.

"After an NRP manages to remit the desired amount, he is required to send the remittance book to the nearest Pakistani mission with an application, which the mission would send to Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) for issuance of Remittance Cards.

"After even meeting such a hectic and long process to get the Incentive Cards, we are deprived of facilities promised to us and were never told about the compulsory dutiable items," another angry Pakistani said, adding that the only facility they get is the free renewal of their passports within an year of sending remittances.

After piling up complaints and protests from the community members, the Pakistani mission in Dubai sought clarification from the Central Board of Revenue (CBR) about the remittance incentive package.

The CBR finally explained that there are at least 14 items which are not included in the incentive package, and they come under compulsory dutiable items.

The passenger has to pay duty whether he has silver or gold remittance cards on items such as an air-conditioner, a cooking range, a deep freezer, a microwave oven, a refrigerator, a sewing machine, a television, a video cassette player, a video cassette recorder, a DVD, a VCD, a fax machine, a photocopying machine and a washing machine.

"If we do not qualify for duty-free allowances on such items, what else can we take back home," said another community member who ended up paying customs duty on a television.

"I also did not find anybody to give us special handling at the airport as was promised in the incentive package," he claimed.

However, it is still not clear on what items passengers will get special duty free allowances because the NRPs qualify for some allowances without even sending remittances, if they stay abroad for more than six months.

"It was a good incentive scheme but it was not good that people were kept in the dark about its details," commented another expatriate in Sharjah.

The CBR in its new baggage rules for the fiscal year 2002-2003 for passengers travelling to Pakistan has, however, increased the duty free allowance from $ 700 to $1200 for Pakistanis who remit $2,500 or more through normal banking channels during one year preceding their date of arrival in Pakistan.

It has also increased duty free allowance from $1200 to $1500 for Pakistanis who remit $10,000 and more. They can now also avail of these allowances on purchases from the duty free shops in Pakistan.

According to the new passenger baggage rules, Pakistani expatriates with at least six months and more stay are also entitled to some customs duty concession on a number of things, in addition to special facilities for people going to Pakistan on transfer of residence status, even without sending remittances.

Passengers with at least six months and more stay abroad are allowed to take duty free personal jewellery of the value not exceeding $1,100 (for women passengers only).

Professional tools, instruments, apparatus and appliances of up to $1,100 acquired from abroad in connection with their profession, are customs free.

Other customs free items include: personal, professional or household goods imported as gift allowance of not more than $450 and one portable radio-cum-cassette player or CD player of value of not exceeding $100.

A passenger can also take two personal computers or laptop computers along with printers, monitors, keyboards, mouse and cables, etc without paying any duty.

Personal or professional goods or household items whether used or not, acquired abroad, are allowed on payment of customs duty and other taxes without any limit. Earlier, only a limited number of things was allowed.

Expatriate passengers with less than six months stay will be entitled to purchase from a duty free shop items worth $225, whereas passengers with six months or more stay abroad can purchase items worth $450 withou