Kabul Tomorrow Unknown
Kandahar Tomorrow Sunny
Herat Tomorrow Unknown
Mazar-i-sharif Tomorrow Unknown
Ghazni Tomorrow Sunny
Jalalabad Tomorrow Sunny
Bamiyan Tomorrow Sunny
Zaranj Tomorrow Sunny
Mimana Tomorrow Party cloudy
The Killid Group
Smugglers harm Af-Pak border tradeWritten by Ezazullah Zaland and Farhad
Saturday, 04 June 2011 11:15
They trek over rugged and perilous terrains and illegally carry various items between the Afghanistan-Pakistan long and porous Durand Line - the smugglers are young and old men and even children who reportedly pay off border security forces to sustain their work.
"I was jobless, poor and desperate and a friend introduced me to this job," said Ahmad Khan, 18, who smuggles commercial commodities in Torkham at the eastern Afghan-Pakistan border. "I carry different items in a trolley and over my shoulders from Pakistan to Afghanistan and vice versa."
It is unclear how many individuals are involved in the illegal movements of goods and people over the controversial border, the Durand Line. Since the inception of Pakistan in August 1947, successive Afghan governments have refused to recognize the Durand Line as an official border between the two countries calling it an artificial colonial arbitration.
"They transport electronic appliances, vehicle tires, lubricants and spare parts over the border," said Mohammad Akram, a businessman in the eastern Nangarhar province. The smugglers are not restricted to Torkham but operate across other crossing points along the 2,400km border.
"Sometimes Afghan and Pakistani police and border security guards stop us but when we pay cash they release us and our goods," alleged one young smuggler in an interview with Killid. Others also said that the smugglers would not be able to operate freely without covert support or at least negligence from both Pakistani and Afghan security forces. "They don't operate in a shadowy and dark world but illegally carry goods across the border in daylight," said one trader, Jamal Shah.
Most of the smugglers interviewed by Killid said they were forced to do the job because of lack of other work opportunities. "This job is extremely onerous, risky and indecent," said Gul Ahmad, a smuggler, adding that he would quit the work if other employment options were made available to him.
Landlocked Afghanistan relies on imports from Pakistan, through its Karachi ports, based on transit agreements between the two countries.
The illegal movement of commercial goods over the borders has proved a critical impediment to formal trade and economic transactions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Several months after a new trade and transit agreement was inked between the two neighboring states - thanks to strong diplomatic pressures from the U.S. - Afghan traders still complain about stringent transit rules applied on their goods in Pakistan. The new trade agreement has yet to come into force and this week the Minister of Commerce Mr Anwar ul Haq Ahady said one of the reasons for the delay was Pakistani fears that Afghan truckers would use the agreement to increase smuggling. "Maybe Pakistan is worried about the smuggling of goods in theses vehicles. The matter is of concern to us as well, and we will try to solve the problem," he said. Pakistan had sought guarantees for Afghan trucks entering that country. Ahadi said the issue had not been resolved as yet but that he hoped it would be.
Officials and experts say that the smuggling of goods over the borders causes significant trade and revenue losses to both Afghanistan and Pakistan.