Smartphone Image Credit: Stock image

Dubai: Pakistani expatriates will be allowed to bring in only one mobile phone to the country, per year, free of customs duty as per the new personal baggage rules. The announcement was made on Twitter by Hammad Azhar, Pakistan’s Minister of State for Revenue.

He added that a maximum of five smart phones can be brought under the new regulations in a year. However, customs duty will have to be paid on the extra four handsets to require service in Pakistan beyond 30 days.

@Hammad_Azhar tweeted: “For people bringing in phones from abroad, as per personal baggage rules. One phone per annum is allowed duty free and up to a maximum of 5 phones in a year can be brought in. The duty on remaining 4 will have to be paid if you require service in Pakistan beyond 30 days.”

Phone smuggling

In a series of tweets on Saturday, Azhar announced other major policy shifts announced to tackle the issue of smuggled phones in the country.

Azhar tweeted: “The cabinet has decided that mobile phones sold after December 1, 2018 that are not custom duty paid (i.e. smuggled) will be deactivated by PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) after a lapse of 30 days.”

He added that phones currently in use or activated before December 1 will not be affected.

The tweets gathered quick reaction from overseas Pakistanis. Some said a period of 30 days was too less.

@MashwaniAzhar wrote: “It must be three months because many overseas Pakistanis come to Pakistan for two to three months.”

@Syed_Sajjad added: “30 days is not enough it should be 45 or 60 days. Please don’t add extra problem for visitors/tourists. Also the process must be automated and less time consuming. People come, enjoy, don’t want to be disconnected and put into risks. Please review it.”

Others were concerned that this would mean having to stand in long queues to declare phones at customs.

@AhmerMurad: “The process for declaration and registration of the one phone allowed duty-free and for the assessment & payment of duty on the others should be simple and quick.”

And @khanzeeshuu added: “[An] online mechanism should be set up... allocate with the passport and ticket details etc. Else we will start seeing long queues just to declare phone with customs.”

Duties, taxes

Some were unhappy that they were being charged again in Pakistan, after paying tax on the phones while purchasing in their respective overseas countries.

@Ijazanwar tweeted: “And they also cannot bring a custom free phone for their family for whom they are sacrificing. If someone brings from abroad, it has already paid VAT and duties of that country. How about double taxation. Must reconsider the move and technicalities here.”

According to Azhar’s tweet, a previous ban on commercial import of used phones has also been lifted if the phone models conform to PTA regulations and duties and taxes have been paid on them.

According to the Pakistani newspaper, The Express Tribune: “On Friday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had announced that the cabinet had decided to install a new Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) to block smuggled phones after December 31. The restriction will not be imposed on the phones already in use.”

Chaudhry was addressing the media after a meeting of the federal cabinet. He said used mobile phones worth around Rs2.5 billion (Dh68 million) are illegally brought to Pakistan every year.

@Hammad_Azhar added: “For the purposes of implementation and enforcement of this policy, the customs electronic automated system has already been integrated with the PTA’s DRIBS (Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System). The IMEI numbers of customs duty paid phones is automatically uploaded into PTA’s database.”