Customs confiscate passengers’ personal belongings under the ‘luxury items’ ban.

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Overseas travelers to Pakistan expressed outrage after customs officials confiscated passengers’ belongings at Karachi Airport.

The current government has banned the import of luxury items to stem the import bill and pressure on Pakistan’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves. An image went viral on social media in which customs officials allegedly confiscated a passenger’s personal items, including chocolate, shoes and cell phones.

Customs at Jinnah International Airport Karachi shared the image online showing a passenger’s personal belongings being confiscated. This was hailed as a success. The Collectorate even decided to write to the about it federal tax office.

Read more: Pakistan’s imports to GDP ratio exceeds 18 percent

The letter provides details on how customs officers confiscated the luxury item and upheld the rule of law. Customs said they scanned the luggage of the passenger who arrived from a “risky destination” and found the goods in his luggage.

“The round-the-clock vigilance at the international arrivals terminal resulted in the seizure of various items brought in the guise of real passenger luggage,” the letter from Jinnah International Airport Customs said.

The letter mentioned how customs officials thoroughly checked all luggage of passengers arriving from risky destinations. The letter did not mention the number of passengers and flights that went through such controls. Customs claimed to have seized 76 kilograms of groceries, 127 kilograms of fruit, 42 kilograms of sanitary items, 213 mobile phones and 96 pairs of branded shoes.

The alleged victims shared pictures of the receipt given to him by customs officials and the confiscated five kilograms of chocolate he had brought for friends and family. The move drew heavy criticism from social media users, victims and commenters on social media.

Finance Minister Miftah Ismail also commented on the incident. He said:

“As the government has banned the importation of some non-essential items, we fear that smuggling of these items will increase. That’s why we’ve stepped up prosecutions against professional Khaipyas [smugglers]. Officials know who they are. Ordinary citizens who bring a few items will not be bothered,” he tweeted.

A group of economic analysts had questioned the current government’s move to ban imports of luxury goods. Others believe that the Khaipiyas supposedly work in collusion with customs officials, they do nothing on their own.

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