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PESHAWAR, March 8: About half of the oil tanker owners have halted supply to Nato forces in Afghanistan due to security reasons and the extortion money demanded by police and khasadar personnel at various points.

While talking to Dawn here on Tuesday, the owners said that regular attacks on oil tankers were scaring away the drivers and cleaners. The cleaners have to travel on the rooftop of vehicles, as directed by authorities, and remain fully alert to any attack while on their way to Afghanistan.

Long queues of tankers supplying oil to Nato forces can be seen on the Ring Road, where most of their terminals are located.

The drivers said that political administration of Khyber Agency had made it mandatory for them to cross Takhta Baig area of the tribal region before 10am on daily basis otherwise they had have to pay a fine of Rs10,000 on return.

Drivers said that the instructions had been issued to them in the wake of fresh attacks but it was very difficult for them to keep an eye on the movement of suspected person on such a long route, from Karachi to Afghanistan.

“We are doing this just to make both ends meet, otherwise it is a very risky,” they opined and said that they could not park their vehicles carrying Nato supplies outside hotels and buildings, as the residents did not allow them to do so.

They also blamed police for not letting them move ahead due to security reasons and warned that they would forced to block the road if police did not change its attitude.

Khyber Agency Truckers Association president Shakir Afridi told Dawn that drivers were the ultimate sufferers of the restrictions on movement of tankers. He claimed that over 1,000 tankers had been destroyed since 2002.

During this period, he said, some 85 drivers had been killed and 120 wounded in sabotage acts on way from Karachi to Afghanistan. He said that it was a very tough job but the people were uneducated and could not adopt any other profession.

Mr Afridi said that the people in oil tanker business were losing millions due to the increasing terrorist activities.

He demanded of the government to provide protection to the transporters as they were paying taxes to the national exchequer and also providing jobs to thousands of people.

Police officials, meanwhile, rejected the allegation of receiving bribe, saying that they had no powers to operate in the tribal areas.