Tobacco firms challenge Pakistan's track and trace system

A key deadline has already passed for implementing Pakistan's tobacco track and trace system, but most producers have still not done so, and are challenging some elements of the plan in the courts.

The implementation is part of Pakistan's attempt to meet the requirements of the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which includes tobacco traceability requirements.

The FCTC says that governments should adopt tracking and tracing as part of a wider programme of anti-illicit trade measures, based on unique, secure, identification markings on all unit packs of cigarettes and other tobacco products manufactured in or imported into a country.

A recent update from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) said that from July 1, no tobacco product can be shipped from a commercial premises without having a tax stamps and unique identification marking (UIM) affixed to each pack.

At the moment just three manufacturers are able to comply with the order, namely Pakistan Tobacco Co, Philip Morris International, and Khyber Tobacco.

Now, other producers that previously filed a lawsuit seeking to delay the implementation of the entire track and trace system have asked the courts to block the latest requirement, allowing them to sell stock produced without the unique identifiers after the July 1 cut-off point.

The group also tried to force the FBR to take on the expense of implementing the system, but that attempt was denied. The latest lawsuit is set to be heard later this week.

Last year, Pakistan’s government awarded a contract to implement a track and trace system spanning tobacco, cement, sugar and fertilizer to a consortium led by authentication specialist Authentix.

Authentix is collaborating on the project with MITAS Corp, a South African traceability company, and  Pakistani trading and project management group AJCL.

The contract was awarded after Pakistan scrapped an earlier deal with National Radio & Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC), after a court upheld complaints that the company had been given preferential treatment.

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