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Pakistan Export Group Calls Gem Ban Unfair, Warns of Protests

12 february 2014

Pakistan's federal government banned exports of all kinds of precious and semi-precious stones, said Atif Rashid Khawaja, the chairman of the action committee for the Peshawar-based All Pakistan Commercial Exporters Association, calling the move unfair.
The ban was imposed by the Ministry of Commerce on January 23 through an unfair decision without taking the exporters into confidence,” he told Plus News, cited by Rapaport.
Though the restriction has blocked shipments of exporters from the entire country, a majority of them are from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as Peshawar serves as the hub.
According to Khawaja, over 3,000 exporters have lost their business that they have been running for the past 60 years.
A large quantity of precious stones such as ruby, emerald, sapphire, lapis, quartz, tourmaline, aquamarine and peridot have been seized and kept by the Pakistan Customs at the Peshawar airport after the imposition of the ban.
Pakistan is one of the leading exporters of precious and semi-precious stones – except for diamonds – to the world market, especially to the U.S., Thailand and  Europe. The ban came into force after the government issued an SRO in a bid to discourage smuggling of gold to India.
Khawaja said the government’s move was aimed at restricting the export of gold jewelry, which had nothing to do with the export of precious stones. But, he said, the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) had also applied the SRO to the export of precious stones.
Commerce ministry officials, while rejecting the claims of the association, said the SRO also covered the export of precious stones.
Talking to Plus News, an official of the Ministry of Commerce insisted that they had asked the exporters of precious stones to get themselves registered with the TDAP after depositing $285 (PKR 30,000) as a registration fee.
“Exports will not be allowed without registration, which will be renewable after every three years,” the official declared.
However, the exporters were not willing to accept the condition, believing that the fee would pave the way for the levy of general sales tax (GST) on the export of precious stones, which Khawaja called unlawful.
He said the country had earned millions of dollars annually with the export of precious stones. “Now, the country will lose this foreign exchange due to the curb on export. It will also encourage smuggling of precious stones through Afghanistan,” he added.
Khawaja warned of a strong protest against the ban in a bid to force the ministry to lift all restrictions. “Exporters at a recent meeting in Peshawar have expressed strong resentment and decided to stage a sit-in in front of provincial assemblies and the national Parliament,” he said.
Citing the example of India, he said its exporters of precious stones were earning billions of dollars as Delhi had offered them a host of facilities, but in Pakistan the industry was being discouraged, which would have a negative impact on its export earnings.