KARACHI, July 4: Hundreds of oil tankers and container-laden trailers parked in Shireen Jinnah Colony and Mauripur are set to begin their journey to Afghanistan after the seven-month closure of Nato supply routes amid ‘much higher security risk’ and extra measures promised by the authorities within the boundaries of the port city to protect the cargoes destined for the neighbouring landlocked country, it emerged on Wednesday.
The transporters in general are happy with the government decision to revive the Nato supply after the US ‘apology’ over the Salala checkpoints attack that killed 23 soldiers and an officer of Pakistan Army on Nov 26, 2011, but now they are more worried about the security risk that they say has multiplied over these months.
“In the past when the supply was on, there were frequent attacks on Nato consignments,” says Israr Khan Shinwari, a common spokesman for the transporters supplying oil and military supplies to the Nato forces in Afghanistan battling against the local Taliban fighters for more than a decade.
“But this time, we feel the security risk is multiple times higher. The authorities are well aware of the issue and we have also conveyed our concerns to them. Security is solely the responsibility of the state so we are more focused to meet formalities before the supply begins.”
On an average, he says, 500 oil tankers and as many number of trailers travel between Karachi and Afghanistan with more than 50,000 people — directly and indirectly — associated with the business.
Security is the primary issue for Nato transporters, adds Mr Shinwari but makes it clear that they mean business and are well prepared to resume it without even waiting for such measures to be in place.
Since the closure of the supply routes, thousands of trucks have been crowding the city port, with some transporters beginning to desert due to the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of routes for more than seven months.
Often influenced by frequent rumours about an early revival of the Nato supply, they claim to have been waiting patiently for a new lease of life to their business.
The government and the city security administration, however, have yet to develop a strategy for the scenario despite an imminent threat to peace as Karachi had previously witnessed attacks on Nato consignments on the deserted highways.
“Currently, the transporters are in phase of documentation and other formalities, which is seen a little lengthy procedures as the supply has been restored after seven months,” said Sharfuddin Memon, the adviser to the Sindh home ministry. “A sketchy plan has been chalked out. Once the supply practically resumes, we will put it in place in coordination with the police, Rangers and Nato transporters.”
He agreed that ‘security’ remained an issue for the transporters, but vowed to address that to ‘the satisfaction level of the transporters’. In past too, he said, Karachi and other parts of Sindh as compared to other parts of the country had proved safer for such supplies.