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Strike suspends trade via Torkham

By Our Correspondent 2019-07-06
LANDI KOTAL: The trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan via Torkham border came to a halt on Friday af ter local traders and custom clearing agents went on an indefinite strike against the alleged high-handedness of customs and National Logistic Cell officials.

Hundreds of vehicles loaded with export and import goods were stranded on both sides of the border due to the refusal of the clearing agents and traders to clear their consignments.

Sources told Dawn that the custom of ficials tried to persuade protesters to end their strike by giving them verbal assurances about the resolution of their problems but the clearing agents and traders demanded a written assurance from them.

Shah Jehan Shinwari, a fruit and vegetable dealer, complained that the customs department had increased duties by up to 40 per cent without taking traders into confidence.

He said the custom staf f on Torkham border had almost doubled the Web-Based One Custom (WeBOC) token rate without improving service, while there`s no alterna-tive system for custom clearance in the absence of Internet service.

The trader demanded speedy clearance of fresh fruits and vegetables and expediting of the process of imported goods examination.

He said the demand for an increase incustoms staf f, especially appraisers, hadn`t got any response from the relevant authorities in the last three years.

Another clearing agent, Jamshed Khan, said custom officials had handed over the control of the import terminal and export gate to the National Logistic Cell againstthe will of the clearing agents and transporters.

He said the custom of ficials had declined the demand for declaration of mix import and export items on an equal ration basis, while they unlawfully seized fresh fruits and vegetables, which were mistakenly loaded onto trucks.

`We demanded for an umpteenth time the removal of clerical mistakes in the goods declaration forms, which the custom staff have been persistently declining causing us both mental, physical and monetary problems,` he said.

The clearing agent said the strike would continue until the protesters got a favourable and written assurance from both customs and NL C authorities for the resolution of their grievances.

ROTEST: Kukikhel tribesmen blocked the Shah Kas Road in Jamrud area to protest the prolonged, unscheduled loadshedding.

The protesters said the suspension of electric supply for long hours in hot and humid weather had made life miserable.

They also complained about acute water shortage in Enzaro and Shah Kas areas. The road was however cleared after an assurance by local police officials.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Narcotics Force has begun checking vehicles and people on Torkham border after establishing an office there. The officials said the move would help check cross-border narcotics trade.