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PESHAWAR, Nov 6: Timber merchants have expressed grave concern over the ban on export of poplar wood to Afghanistan and demanded of the government to lift the ban so they could continue their business and earn valuable foreign exchange for the country.

The demand was raised by the former vice president of the All Peshawar Poplar Wood Dealers Association, Mohammad Wazir, while speaking at a news conference at Peshawar Press Club on Wednesday.

Association’s president Meena Jan, former president Mohammad Janan and a member Haji Fayyaz were also present on the occasion.

Mr Wazir said the ban had been in effect for past three months, causing huge financial losses to both exporters and local dealers.

He said the exporters had been regularly paying taxes and duties to the government but despite that they were not allowed to continue their business for unknown reasons. “The ban is injustice with the timber traders,” he said.

Mr Wazir said that as per the previous policy, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa forest department charged Rs22,000 as clearance tax, while exporters also paid additional Rs23,000 per heavy vehicle to customs authorities. “In addition, the political agent is also paid Rs6,000 per vehicle to allow export of wood to neighbouring Afghanistan,” maintained Mr Wazir.

Similarly, he informed that the federal government had not restricted export of the wood, but the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa authorities banned it for unknown reasons. He urged the provincial government to take action against the forest officer for imposing illegal ban on export of timber to Afghanistan, as poplar wood didn’t come under the ambit of ministry of forest as it was considered a crop not wood.

Owing to ban, he said timber stored at over 87 godowns in various locations was spoiling, causing losses of millions of rupees to dealers and exporters.

The timber merchant appealed to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and provincial senior ministers Sirajul Haq and Sikandar Khan Sherpao to remove the ban and announce a new policy in that regard.

He also warned of launching a protest movement if the authorities didn’t lift the ban within 10 days.