KHYBER: The import of coal from Afghanistan through the Torkham border has reduced considerably after the ruling Afghan Taliban in the neighbouring country increased taxes on coal mines and duty on its export while Pakistani industrialists are also switching over to comparatively cheaper local coal.

Custom clearing agents in Torkham told Dawn that the import of all types of goods from Afghanistan through the Kharlachi border crossing in the Kurram tribal district had been suspended for the last few months due to the security situation, local coal importers were finding it difficult to pay additional duties and taxes imposed by the Afghan Taliban since their ascendency to power in Kabul.

They said that prior to the hike in customs duty and taxes on mines in Afghanistan, more than 4,000 vehicles loaded with coal would come from Afghanistan via Torkham on a monthly basis, whereas, “The number of such vehicles has now dropped down to 1,200 to 1,300 per month,” they added.

Clearing agents say they find it hard to manage monthly expenses

Jamshed Khan, a clearing agent, told Dawn that the entire import of coal was diverted to Torkham after the suspension of trading activities at Kharlachi owing to the law and order situation in the Kurram tribal district in recent months.

He said that most of the factories in Pakistan were now using local coal owing to the hike in prices of Afghan coal. “They mostly buy coal from mines in Darra Adamkhel, Kohat, Hangu and Quetta at comparatively cheaper rates,” he added.

Mr Khan said that most of the coal importers, about 80 to 90 in number, belonged to Punjab province. He said that they were owners of big industrial units while custom clearing agents were all locals.

He said that Afghanistan’s increasing reliance on Iran, India and some Central Asian States for fulfilling its requirement of cement in recent years also adversely affected coal imports from the neighbouring country.

He said that the local cement industry also curtailed production owing to a drop in demand from Afghanistan.

He said that custom clearing agents attached to coal imports were also badly affected as some 300 of them lost jobs only in Kharlachi and nearly 100 in Torkhum were finding it difficult to manage their monthly expenses.

Bilal Shinwari, another customs clearing agent, told Dawn that one ton of coal would cost them Rs35,000 to 38,000 prior to the Taliban coming into power in Afghanistan but now they paid almost Rs50,000 for both customs clearance and transportation charges of the same quantity of coal.

Drug rehabilitation drive

Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) and Haq Ki Awaz, a welfare organisation, in collaboration with police, launched a campaign to rehabilitate drug addicts in the district.

A statement issued by the Shah Kas police centre said that an awareness campaign was launched last week. It said that on June 23, two drug addicts from Bara and one from Jamrud were admitted to a rehabilitation centre.

It said that besides eradication of drugs and drug paddlers, it was also important to rehabilitate drug addicts. The mission and motto of the campaign is to bring these addicts back to normal life, reduce the mental stress of their families and make them catalysts in the progress of society.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2024

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