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Tribe allows new customs terminal at Torkham

Tribe allows new customs terminal at Torkham

LANDI KOTAL: After over four-month long talks, the Khugakhel elders and government officials reached an understanding on Friday about the modalities of constructing a modern customs terminal at Torkham border.

Khyber Agency political agent Shahab Ali Shah and Khyber Rifles commandant Tariq Hafeez represented the government side, while the Khugakhel tribe’s case was pleaded by a nine-member committee comprising Shah Hussain, Zakriya Khan, Wali Khan, Zulfiqar Khan, Naib Shah, Mohammad Shafeeq, Ajar Khan, Tajuddin and Haji Naseer.

Though the government side acknowledged that a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ was reached with the Khugakhel tribe, it refused to share the conditions on which the construction of the proposed customs terminal was agreed.

They insisted that the MoU would help allay apprehensions of the tribe which owned the piece of land as its collective property where the terminal was to be constructed.

It was, however, learnt from credible sources that the tribe would be given a ‘share’ in the money which the customs authorities would charge from every truck taking different merchandise to Afghanistan via Torkham border.

The sources said that during the meeting the officials assured the tribal elders that the old truck terminal building would not be dismantled. The government team also agreed to pay a handsome amount as annual lease to the Khugakhel tribe which would be revised upward every year with mutual consultations between the customs department and the tribe’s elders.

The customs department had long been demanding construction of the terminal at Torkhum border to give impetus to the bilateral trade with Afghanistan. For this purpose, it needed about 400 kanals at the border where the entire land belonged to the tribe. The tribe had about two decades back constructed a private vehicle terminal and taxi stand at the site.

The elders had been demanding a share in the income of the terminal along with annual lease against the land being sought for the customs terminal. Initially, the government side was reluctant to honour both these demands, but had to concede as the tribe was apprehensive about losing a huge chunk of money which they were getting on monthly basis from their private terminal and taxi stand. 

The department had also agreed, in principle, to give preference to the educated Khugakhel youth in the jobs to be created at the new terminal. Officials said that now they would convey the ‘agreement’ to the relevant departments of the federal government so that steps about construction of the terminal could be taken. The existing customs setup at Torkham is without a computer system, reliable power supply and any bank branch.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2015

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