Offbeat Between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ripby Routes for Commerce

14:40  29 july  2021
14:40  29 july  2021 Source:   lepoint.fr

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  Entre l'Afghanistan et le Pakistan, des routes ruineuses pour le commerce © AFP

P Our road carriers passing through the border post of Shaman, in southwestern Pakistan, the costs have been soared since The Taliban took control of the Afghan side of the border in mid-July.

A double taxation is now imposed by Afghan officials and the Taliban, and Big Road bandits require bribes to let the goods pass.

Thousands of vehicles cross the border between Shaman and the Afghan district of Spin Boldak, towards Kandahar, the second largest city in Afghanistan (South).

On the way back, they most often bring back agricultural products for markets or ports of Pakistan.

Road drivers interviewed this week in Shaman by AFP told chaos and confusion on the Afghan side of the border.

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"We charged the grapes in Kandahar and on the road, we were extorted at least three times," says AFP, Shaman, Hidayatullah Khan, a heavyweight Afghan driver.

"Sometimes they charge us for 3,000 rupees (15 euros), elsewhere 2,000, and still elsewhere 1,000", he adds.

All this is without counting on official taxes perceived by Customs Afghan officials, who have now been working from Kandahar, and by the Taliban to Spin Boldak.

Vital Revenue Source

Exchanges temporarily arrested at Shaman when the Taliban seized the District of Spin Boldak on July 14, before resumeing this week.

Bilateral trade between the two countries is worth at least several hundred million euros.

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The Taliban seized vast areas of territory, essentially rural, after having Launched a major offensive in early May that coincided with the withdrawal, almost completed, the last international forces, present in Afghanistan for 20 years.

The Afghan forces no longer control, in addition to Kabul, that the main roads and provincial capitals. Although the Taliban has recently closer to several big cities, including Kandahar.

Insurgents also handed over several key border crossings, with Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan, which are a vital source of revenue, drawn from customs duties for this landlocked country.

Imran Kakar, Vice President of the Pakistano-Afghan Chamber of Commerce, gives the example of a truck that carried Karachi fabric, the large port city in South Pakistani, Kandahar.

The Taliban charged 150,000 rupees (780 euros) of customs charge at the driver at Spin Boldak. But when he reached Kandahar, customs officials were waiting for him.

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He "had to pay high tariffs because they do not take into account payments made to the Taliban," says Kakar.

A dangerous trip

These stories remind the situation of Afghanistan during the bloody civil war that followed the withdrawal in 1989 of the Soviet Union. Multiple militia each controlled a portion of the large tracts and extorted the inhabitants and truckers at will.

Wednesday, hundreds of trucks were aligned with Shaman, their drivers waiting for permission to cross.

On this dusty plain, steep hills on the horizon, drivers and apprentices mechanics accompanying them prepared their vehicle to the harsh journey to come.

Even if Kandahar is only a hundred kilometers from the border, the trip is dotted with dangers.

Vehicles and roads are poorly maintained in Afghanistan. Police and army control positions are frequent, and drivers are often invited to leave "tea money", if not sometimes more.

The brigands are also on the lookout, either to steal goods or to demand money against the right to continue its way. And there is always the risk of being trapped in the middle of the fighting between the Taliban and the government forces.

But to survive, traders and roads must continue to take the road. "The war continues, we know, but we have no other choice," says Abdul Razzaq, who transports chicks to Kandahar.

"Transporting these products is the only way for us to feed our families".

29/07/2021 09:30:58 - Shaman (Pakistan) - © 2021 AFP

Interpreters who fled Afghanistan consider dangerous trip home to apply for refugee status .
Some Afghan interpreters who risked their lives to flee the country are considering a dangerous new journey back into Afghanistan in the hopes of qualifying for resettlement in Canada. Ottawa has opened a special immigration pathway to help interpreters and other Afghans who worked with the Canadian military to resettle in Canada as government-assisted refugees. The first flight carrying Afghan workers landed in Canada on Wednesday. Ottawa says more will be arriving in the coming days and weeks. But to be eligible for the program, applicants have to be living in Afghanistan.

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