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KP not the best choice

PESHAWAR, Nov 8: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is not the busiest route in Pakistan from where North Atlantic Treaty Organisation`s goods are going in and out of Afghanistan, according to information collected by Dawn.

The province has experienced a sharp decline over the last few months in the number of trucks carrying supplies to Nato forces in Afghanistan, according to Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, a customs clearance agent and a director of PakistanAfghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

However, a parallel trucking activity is also going on in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as Nato`s military hardware pulled out of Afghanistan is reaching Karachi via Peshawar, but the number of such trucks is lower than the transporters carrying the Organisation`s goods via Balochistan.

`A much larger number of Nato goods returning from Afghanistan are being transported via Chaman in Balochistan to Karachi,` Haji Ashraf Khalil, the vice president of All Sarhad Goods Transporters, told Dawn.

A senior official of Federal Boardof Revenue, who is looking after Nato`s in-and-out bound supplies to and from Afghanistan via Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said eight to 10 trucks of Nato military hardware were crossing via Peshawar every day on the way to Karachi.

In conjunction, some 15 trucks to 20 trucks of Nato supplies, he added, used Khyber Pakhtunkhwa`s route to enter Federally Administered Tribal Areas on way to Afghanistan on daily basis.

`The trucking operations to bring back the Nato military hardware started in March this year. Initially, the activity was very negligible, but now some eight to 10 trucks are crossing from Peshawar on the way to Punjab from where they proceed to Karachi, said the official with the understanding of keeping his identity secret.

Mr Khalil said Chaman formed the best choice for transporting to Karachi Nato`s returning military equipment from Afghanistan because it was comparatively shorter in distance than the land route via Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The trucks using the Chaman entry point, he added, travelled around 825 kilometers to reach Karachi in com-parison to around 1600 kilometers they had to cover using the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa route, which, he added, was riskier than the Balochistan land route.Trucks bringing back Nato equipment via Torkham`s entry point, on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, he said when asked, entered Peshawar from Jamrud in Khyber Agency.

From there, the trucks, according to him, take the Peshawar Ring Road to enter the Grand Trunk Road on their way to Motorway (M2). They exit M2 at Tarnol interchange in Punjab to head to Fateh Jang to continue their onward journey to Mianwali from where they head to Dera Ghazi Khan and enter Sindh at Mauro on the way to Karachi.The significance of Nato`s supplies via Khyber Pakhtunkhwa made it to the headlines during the past few days after Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan issued a stern warning to block the operations in the backdrop of the American drone strike of Nov 1 last eliminating Hakimullah Mehsud, Taliban chief.

Though his warnings created waves at the national political scene, businessmen appear to be little im-pressed.

`In Pakistan, everything is controlled through buttons in Islamabad, Imran Khan has yet to learn many lessons,` said the trucker, adding `even the federal government can`t do much.

His words make sense for those who know the truckers, involved in carrying Nato supplies to Afghanistan, closely interacted with stakeholders when the last time the trucking operations came to a halt and remained suspended for months after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in American strikes on border check posts at Salala, Mohmand Agency.

The FBR official said trucks carrying Nato supplies to and bringing back from Afghanistan were provided security in Pakistan in accordance with the federal interior ministry`s instructions issued in 2012.

`In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the provincial police department is responsible to ensure the security of trucks carrying Nato`s in-and-out bound military and non-military supplies,` said the officer, adding `once the trucks enter Punjab, the Punjab rangers take care of their security and similarly in Sindh the Sindh Rangers are responsible to ensure their safe journey.

Mr Sarhadi said the Nato trucks were allowed travel from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week.

`Elaborate arrangements are in place for their safe journey to Afghanistan after entering Pakistan via Torl(ham as the trucl(s carrying Nato supplies travel in clusters of three to four and they move from one place to another within a given timeframe,` he added.

Mr Khalil confirmed. He said check posts for trucks carrying Nato goods were set up at Takhta Beg at Khyber Agency, Eisakhel check post near Taunsa Sharif, Rojhan near Dera Ghazi Khan, and at Mauro at Sindh.

Mr Sarhadi said a sharp decline in the in-bound Nato supplies had been recorded during the past few months. According to him, at one time more than 100 trucks carrying Nato supplies were going in Afghanistan on daily basis via Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

However, the number of such trucks, he added, had reduced to only 15 trucks to 20 trucks a day.

The decline has happened because of withdrawing Nato forces from Afghanistan.

The number of American troops has to be brought down to 34,000 by February next year in line with the US President Barack Obama`s plan, according to a news feature published by the US Defence Ministry`s website.