Babar Haq

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Currency allowances while exiting Pakistan

A quick Internet research reveals that Pakistan's current laws allow a person traveling out of Pakistan to carry hard currency in two portions. One portion comprises of local Pakistani currency and the other is foreign currency (forex). In case of of local Pakistani currency portion, one is allowed to carry not more than 3,000 PKR. For foreign currency, the allowance is US$ 10,000 or equivalent (in case any currency other than USD). The forex part of the law is well known. It is the local currency part which people are unaware of. Custom officials fully exploit this ignorance and leave the passenger with no other option but to submit to their demands in order to avoid any unpleasant situation minutes before their flight. Following is a typical scenario described by my friends.

Recently, multiple friends of mine, traveling out of Pakistan specially Lahore airport were cornered by custom officials into paying bribes. The following situation depicts ignorance and exploitation of common legal issues in Pakistan and highlights root causes of widespread corruption in our society.

A passenger walks into the check-in area. Custom officials ask him about the cash he is carrying. Passenger replies with xyz amount. Passenger is informed and pointed to the banner given below. Passenger already suffering from travel anxiety, panics if its more than allowed and wants to immediately resolve the matter. The fastest resolution offered by the custom officials is to leave some amount with them.

There could be many ways to tackle this. The exact law statement could be posted at the airports. It could be broadcast as a public service message on electronic media. The passenger could be asked to hand over extra money to his relatives/friends if they are still around. Passenger could be asked to deposit it against a receipt to later claim it back. Sadly, the only option offered by our law enforcement agencies is to gift a portion of it to them.

Rs.3k is roughly around US $30. It is a very trivial amount to fulfill passengers requirements at the airport, since there are no ATMs across the security zone at the airport terminal. None of the retail outlets (restaurants, gift shops, duty free shop and VIP lounges) at the airport accept credit card as payment. Some times passengers also have to pay Civil aviation authority taxes while checking in (in case there is an increase). What were our policy makers thinking while setting up this limit of US$30.

The passenger is to be blamed equally as most of them do not bother to raise this issue on any forum and just continue with the rant "Pakistan main aaisa hee hoota hai" (this is how things work in Pakistan). Also, airport customs is only Law enforcement agency at the airport which does not display any kind of contact information (phone, fax, email what so ever).

Never the less, if you are flying out of Pakistan in near future, please make sure you do not have cash worth more than PKR3,000 i.e US$30!