PESHAWAR, Nov 21: Trade and industrial circles here fear loss of business due to the closure of Peshawar’s Ring Road by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and its allies to block North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (Nato) supplies to Afghanistan.
The likely suspension of vehicular traffic on the all important trade artery will disrupt transportation of raw material to manufacturing units in the Hayatabad industrial estate, prime hub of industrial activities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
However, Jamaat-i-Islami’s local leaders told Dawn that the road would be blocked only for three hours on November 23 and it would not be a permanent road blockade.
“It will only be a symbolic protest to block Nato supplies,” said Beherullah, the president of JI, district Peshawar chapter.
He said he ‘surveyed’ the road on Thursday to ‘inspect’ the spot from where the Nato supply route would be blocked.
The JI leader said it would be a sit-in for three hours on November 23 as part of a protest demonstration by PTI, JI, and their allied parties.
“We are not talking about blocking the road permanently,” said the JI leader.
The decision has not gone well with Peshawar’s trade and business circles, particularly those who are likely to be affected directly due to the closure of Ring Road.
“This is really saddening, an unfortunate move,” said Zahidullah Shinwari, the president of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa businessmen could not afford such activities because trade and business had suffered a lot due to militancy and terrorism.
He said even if the road was blocked for a single day or a few hours it resulted into losses to businesses, shattering businessmen’s confidence.
The JI, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa leaders said the road would be blocked only for trucks carrying Nato supplies.
However, businessman Ziaul Haq Sarhadi said Nato supplies could not identified by merely spotting a container laden truck or even inspecting a truck inside out.
“The trucks carrying Nato supplies to Afghanistan cannot be singled out from the trucks carrying regular trade items (to Afghanistan) as the consignment documents do not specifically mention that the goods were meant for Nato forces or were regular trade items,” said Mr Sarhadi, a customs clearance agent and director of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The KPCCI president also holds the same opinion.
He said the move would create complications for manufacturers in the Hayatabad industrial estate.
Last week, some Hayatabad industrial estate’s manufacturers went out of operations after their raw material trucks could not reach them on time.
The district administration had banned the entry of large trucks as part of the security arrangements on the 9th and 10th of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar year.
“We could not operate for one whole day last week after the truck carrying our raw material was stopped outside Peshawar for two consecutive days,” said Muhammad Ishaq, who owns and manages a package manufacturing unit at the Hayatabad industrial estate.
He said the decision to block Ring Road did not augur well for industrialists of the Hayatabad industrial estate.
Ring Road has over the years become the major trade route. Trucks carrying export items and Nato supplies to Afghanistan, raw material to the Hayatabad industrial estate, and industrial supplies from Punjab to Peshawar’s Karkhano Market use Ring Road.
Trucks on way to Afghanistan from Punjab disembark Grand Turn Road or Motorway in Peshawar and take the city’s Ring Road to continue journey to the border town of Torkham.
Haji Ashraf Khalil, the vice president of All Sarhad Goods Transporters, when contacted, said Nato supplies could not be blocked only by blocking Ring Road for few hours. “It cannot be blocked even if they block the road for three hours a day,” said the transporter.
He said the road would have to be blocked permanently if anybody wanted to stop supplies to Nato’s troops in Afghanistan or the military vehicles returning from there.
“Nobody can block the road for 24 hours a day without which their purpose would be served,” said Haji Ashraf.
A JI leader, on the condition of anonymity, told Dawn that PTI intended to lay road blockade in Punjab and Karachi as well.
“They (PTI) are likely to announce their plan at Peshawar’s protest demonstration on Nov 23,” said the JI leader.
However, Mr Beherullah said JI had already announced to lay a symbolic road blockade in Karachi on November 24 to register their protest against Nato supplies.
The KPCCI president asked, “Why don’t they block roads to stop Nato supplies somewhere in Punjab or Sindh?”
He said PTI was in the provincial government and it should not have opted to take such an extreme step to block roads to press for its demands.
“It would result in a very negative impact on our businesses,” he said.
Mr Shinwari said Peshawar had already 80 per cent of the Afghan Transit Trade business due to the new agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“Major ATT business has already shifted to Bunder Abbas in Iran, while road blockades by a political party in government will hit further trade and business activities in Peshawar,” he said.