The government’s decision to raise new battalions as part of the Border Monitoring Initiative (BMI) is a much-needed step to curb cross-border smuggling. Two additional battalions will be raised for this purpose, alongside a multi-billion-rupee injection to improve border monitoring capabilities along the border in Balochistan. Pakistan loses an incalculable amount of revenue through the black market, and the government’s decision to spend money on upgrading the monitoring system and increasing manpower along the country’s western boundary is imperative. This move also goes hand-in-hand with the armed forces work in fencing the border – both are needed in order to stop uncontrolled and illegal cross-border movement of both goods and people.

There are a few problems the government must account for while putting this plan into motion, however. The first and more obvious one is that maintaining new battalions and supplying the customs department with technological assistance to curb smuggling requires a lot of funds, something that the state currently has very limited amounts of. The initial cost is projected to be an estimated Rs52 billion in Balochistan alone. More money will be needed at regular intervals; can the government commit such astronomical amounts of money, or will this project be like many others before it, forgotten after a one-time injection? If that happens, the government might be opening up more avenues for corruption and smuggling along the border, likely leading to greater activity in the black market and a greater chunk of revenue lost through illegal trades.

This brings us to the other crucial issue the government must take into account; transparency. All over the world, border patrols and frontier security forces are known to overstep their mandate and misuse their powers. At best, this leads to minor abuse of power but at worst, frontier security forces can even become sponsors of the illegal trade that takes place along the borders. Human trafficking and smuggled goods have all been attributed to corrupt border officials across the world, and the government must not let this happen under its watch. The state must develop a system to monitor the border patrols and develop standard operating procedures and oversight committees, so that customs officials and border battalions are kept in line. The government has developed a good plan to curtail an exigent problem; it just needs to ensure that it goes the whole nine yards in its execution.