KARACHI, Nov 27: Around 300 heavy vehicles — 200 container-mounted trailers and 100 tankers — on an average had been setting off from the city port for Afghanistan daily to transport supplies meant for the US-led Nato forces fighting the Taliban until the operation suddenly came to a halt on Sunday.
The enormous vehicular traffic was taken off the Karachi-Qandahar route stretching across the National Highway into Chaman and further onward into Kabul via Khyber Pass after the Nato attacked Pakistan Army’s outposts in Mohmand Agency, killing and wounding many soldiers.
Responding to Dawn queries, Khyber Transport Association chief Shakir Afridi said that one oil tanker having a capacity of around 50,000 to 60,000 litres cost between Rs4 million and Rs5 million and the transport fare was charged at a rate of around Rs12 per litre. “It takes 15 and 20 days for a return trip depending on the situation, which usually remains fluid,” he added.
Similarly, he said, a trailer carrying a 40-foot container cost between Rs3.5 million and Rs4.5 million and charged a fare between Rs200,000 and Rs250,000. Each of the vehicles normally had a two/three member crew — a driver and his support staff, claiming a monthly salary of around Rs35,000 and Rs20,000, respectively.
Mr Afridi said that each member organisation of his association owned around 2,000 oil tankers and 3,500 trailers and handled between 85 and 90 per cent of the Afghanistan-bound supplies for the allied forces.
Regarding compensation for losses in the transportation process, he said the amount varied between Rs3 million and Rs3.5 million for each oil tanker destroyed in a blast or an arson attack which did not cover the entire loss and was paid three to four months after the incident. The situation for trailer-owners was worse as they did not get any compensation, he lamented.
He said the poor crew of the vehicles was fully exposed to all sorts of risks as they were not only vulnerable to armed attacks but only to accidents and other hazards. “Not a single penny is paid to them as compensation for death or injury,” he said.
Ready to sacrifice livelihood Mr Afridi, whose business totally depends on handling of allied forces’ supplies, appeared very clear on Pakistan’s response to the Saturday raid.
Condemning the allied forces, he said that Pakistan should put its foot down and accept no apologies in this regard. He expressed his dismay over Pakistan’s response against similar incidents in the past. “Every time they violated the Pakistan border and killed Pakistanis in attacks, Islamabad restricted its response to registering protests and briefly suspending the transportation of supply.”
He was of the view that Pakistan must take a tough stand over such attacks to settle the issue once and for all so that the allied forces did not dare repeat such acts.
In reply to a question that he might also lose his business for good once the supplies were stopped for good, Mr Afridi said he did not care about the livelihood as he believed that “Almighty Allah is the provider”.
He said his association was with the government and the army and it would fully support any decision taken by the country’s leadership.