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Back in 1960, most of my friends either took up engineering or medicine (one of them also went for commerce and became a highly successful chartered accountant). I slogged for the next five years to become an engineer, and I can't say that I was a good one. I'd have made a good accountant or a professor of English, but these were not very attractive professions. I now realize that if I hadn't wasted those five precious years studying for an engineering degree, but had taken up smuggling instead, I'd have become a very rich man by the age of 40. Pakistan is perhaps the only country in the world where smuggling is actively encouraged. Smugglers enjoy the protection of politicians of all the parties (mainly because smugglers have relatives and friends in both the national assembly as well as the four provincial assemblies.

In the badlands up north, there is a smugglers' market outside Peshawer called Karkhano Bazaar. I once estimated that there were more than ten thousand shops in that market. None of the traders there pay any income tax or sales tax, though all of them have expensive properties in Karachi and Lahore. I have suggested to the government many times to impose sales tax on the smuggled items sold there, but have always been met with a stony silence. It seems that the government does not have the will to take on the smugglers' mafia. No wonder the country is awash with drugs and weapons and bombs.

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