18 months on, most shops in Bara Bazaar still closed
By Ibrahim Shinwari
LANDI KOTAL: Contrary to the claims of government about reviving the `lost glory` of historic Bara Bazaar, only 745 out of the total 9,600 registered shop have restarted businesses during the last nearly 18 months after the reopening of the bazaar.
The shopkeepers and traders, with whom this scribe interacted, complained about lack of basic facilities including electricity and drinking water at the bazaar.
They also complained about closure of some main roads leading to the bazaar, intense security checking of both traders and ordinary tribesmen at the entry and exit points of bazaar and a row over construction of a bus stand.
They alleged that political administration was least inter-ested in giving Bara Bazaar the status of a municipal committee alongside ensuring installation of electricity transformers and provision of clean drinking water.
Repeated imposition of curfew and restricting the mobility of local traders and shopkeepers was another major concern of the local traders.
They said that such restrictions hampered revival of business activities in Bara Bazaar, which remained closed for over six years from 2009 till 2016 owing to militancy and subsequent military operations in the area.
Most of the Bara traders, during closure of the bazaar, shifted their business to Batta Thal Bazaar, situated at a stone`s throw distance near the old Bara bazaar on the outskirts of Peshawar.
Said Ayaz, a trader, told Dawn that majority of Batta Thal shopkeepers were eager to restart their business at Bara Bazaar but they were reluctant to do so owing to lack of basic facilities.
He said that besides failure of authorities to fulfil their promises about the revival of Bara Bazaar, demand of higher rent bythe owners of reconstructed markets was also one of the major reasons behind local traders` reluctance to restart their business at the bazaar.
Mr Ayaz said that almost 90 per cent of the old buildings were demolished and reconstructed as those were badly damaged in militant attacks during closure of the bazaar.
Haji Gulmeen, another member of the traders union, said that construction of a grand bus stand near the bazaar was another major issue as local transporters wanted separate bus and taxi standfor different localities.
He said that some tribes, especially Zakhalchel, were facing difficulties in reaching Bara Bazaar owing to transportation problems.
`Local people from the adjoining areas of Sipah, Shalobar and Malakdinkhel too are not happy with extensive and repeated checking at the checkposts established along the road leading to Bara Bazaar,` he said.
The security officials, on the request of local political administration, announced relaxation of curfew timings in the bazaarfrom 5am till 11pm.
In a meeting held in Bara on Wednesday it was resolved that efforts would be made to facilitate access of both shopkeepers and customers to Bara Bazaar along with relaxation in identification at the security checkposts. The meeting was attended by representatives of security forces, officials of political administration, local elders and traders.
A committee was also formed to expedite work on restoration of power supply and provision of drinking water to the bazaar in the shortest possible time.
The traders and shopkeepers were given an assurance that Bara Bazaar would not be closed down during VIP movement in the area.
The local traders would also be issued special security cards to ensure their unhindered movement to and from the bazaar.
It was, however, reiterated during the meeting that no Afghan national would be allowed to do any type of business in Bara Bazaar while a complete ban on dealing in all types of narcotics would also remain in place.