Over 8,000 vehicles awaiting clearance at Torkham to enter PakistanPakistan
LANDI KOTAL: More than 8,000 vehicles both loaded and empty are stranded at the Afghanistan side of Torkham border owing to slow process of security checking and clearance by the Pakistani border guards.
Sources said that the process of security clearance of vehicles entering Pakistan from Afghanistan slowed down since the task was taken from political administration following reopening of the border on March 21 after remaining closed for nearly five weeks.
They said that an average of 15 vehicles either carrying import items from Afghanistan or returning empty to Pakistan were checked and examined every hour by the border guards whereas the number was almost double when the task was done jointly by security personnel and local political administration officials.
Sources said that during 14 hours of border opening on daily basis, only 200 vehicles were allowed entry into Pakistan in comparison to nearly 500 vehicles prior to closure of border in February last.
The affected transporters complained about security guards’ attitude of ‘resisting speedy clearance’ rather than assisting them to cross the border without wasting time.
Sources said that lack of proper knowledge of speedy disposal of incoming vehicles by the new border guards was also one of the reasons of slow process of clearance.
The border guards took control of the zero point at Torkham soon after reopening of border on March 21.
They advised all other government departments including Khasadar and Levies forces to step back from the zero point.
The transporters complained that new arrangements resulted in stranding of vehicles on Afghan side that also caused them financial losses.
They said that Afghan authorities started taxing them for utilising the parking space at the Afghan Customs building for a prolonged time.
Meanwhile, a six-member delegation of local transporters held talks with the Afghan border and Customs authorities to convince them to waive off the newly imposed parking tax.
Shakir Afridi, a member of the delegation, told Dawn that Afghan authorities assured them that no additional taxes would be imposed on them if the Pakistani border guards expedited the process of security clearance.
He said that the Afghan authorities were charging every vehicle with US $90 on daily basis for utilising their parking facility and provision of security.
He said that apart from hundreds of empty vehicles, which had carried multiple export goods to Afghanistan, around 2,500 vehicles loaded with coal and soapstone and 1,500 more vehicles carrying fresh fruits and vegetables were awaiting clearance for their entry to Pakistan.
Mr Afridi said that transporters suffered financial losses for no fault of them. He said that they were punished and taxed owing to slow security clearance by the Pakistani border guards at Torkham.
He said that Pakistani authorities should specify a separate passage for empty vehicles entering the country at Torkham as it would help in expediting the process of clearance of vehicles loaded with import goods.
Mr Afridi said that use of a single entry and exit point at Torkham for both import and export carrying vehicles caused congestion and unnecessary delay in clearance of trade merchandise and empty vehicles.
It overburdened transporters with paying of additional taxes and waste of their precious time, he added.
Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2017