Abu Nasr Farahi port
|Abu Nasr Farahi port
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So far, many protests have been held in Farah against the Finance Ministry’s decision.
"The Iranian border is closed to drug traffickers who do not have ties with Iranian armed forces," Mohammad Aref Kiani, a Herat-based military affairs analyst said. However, for smugglers who "have connections and co-ordinate" with Iranian authorities, the border is open "and they are able to easily transfer illicit drugs", he said. "The narcotics are initially transported from Helmand to Shindand District of Herat Province, then to Farah Province, and finally from Farah to Iran," Kiani said. "The IRGC has direct ties to the Taliban and drug traffickers who thrive on the black market," he said. "In fact, the Taliban [fight] on the battlefields using drug trafficking money, as well as the support they receive from Iran." "The IRGC runs that black economy by trafficking drugs, smuggling gemstones and exporting low quality goods to our country," he said. "Through supporting and equipping the Taliban, Iran wants to destabilise [western Afghanistan], in order to easily transfer drugs to its own territory," Kiani said.(20180411)
Management and control of all entry and exit ports in the country will be transferred from the Ministry of Commerce and Industries to the Ministry of Finance within the next two months, the Afghan Ministry of Finance has announced.(20171204) Currently, Afghanistan has fifteen small and large ports. Officials at the Ministry of Finance said with the transfer of responsibility for the ports to the ministry of Finance, there will be major reforms at these ports and government revenues are expected to increase as a result. Officials added that the Aqina and Nimroz ports will be constructed during the coming year to meet the needs of domestic and foreign merchants. These ports are currently not adequate to meet the needs of the merchants. The capacities of the ports are to be increased.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) said businessmen are facing many challenges at Afghanistan ports. These include commodity reviews, the complexity of administrative processes and overheads. By transferring these ports to the Ministry of Finance, there is a serious need to solve the problems of businessmen. “The lack of warehouses at ports is another serious problem. These should be equipped with modern equipment to keep our goods and property secured. Another very serious problem is that, in the unloading of materials, it, unfortunately, takes ten to fifteen days,” said Siyam Psarlai, spokesman for ACCI.
Truck drivers in western Farah province complain of being forced into paying bribes during their journey. The truckers are brazenly fleeced at 20 police posts and in Taliban-controlled areas of Pushtkoh district, where truck drivers start their journey from the Shaikh Abu Nasar Farahi Port to Farah City, the provincial capital. From there, the goods-laden vehicles move to the Farah Rod area of Bala Baluk district, but the drivers are compelled to meet illegal demands from police and militants, Pajhwok Afghan News has reliably learnt. The Abu Nasar Port is situated on the border with Iran, from where 200 trucks carrying goods departs for Farah City daily. On average, the driver of every goods-laden truck is forced to pay 24,000 afghanis to police and Taliban. In addition to paying taxes at the Abu Nasar Port, truck drivers have to grease the palm of law-enforcement personnel as well as Taliban. The custom duty varies, depending on the nature of commodities.
The Taliban have been extorting truckers in the Mullah Lalo locality of Pushtunkoh district for a month and a half (20171017). The village is situated 15 kilometers northeast of Pushtunkoh district — considered to be one of insecure areas. Farah Custom Director Abdul Haleem Himmat said according to the department’s record, 160 trucks entered Farah City legally procedure and illegally. He admitted militants in Pushtkoh extorted the drivers — an issue shared with the governor Wazir Ahmad Farahi, a trucker from Farah City, said: “For the past one and a half month, the Taliban have been coercing drivers into illicit payments in Mullah Lalo locality.” He added the Taliban formally gave receipts to the drivers paying the so-called toll tax. From 1,000 to 8,000 afghanis are extorted from every truck driver transporting trade good. The guerrillas receive 8,000 afghanis from the driver of every oil tanker, 6,000 afs from each truck carrying chicken, 5,000 afs from every the trucker transporting steel, 1,500 to 3,000 afs from those carrying marbles or construction materials. Similarly, 1,000 to 2,000 afs are charged from truckers carrying cements or fertilizer. He reckoned around 200 trucks passed through the area daily. In addition, 200 more vehicles carrying fuel to other provinces also ply this route.
Noor Ahmad, another driver, endorsed Wazir Ahmad’s claim. He said around 80 trucks carrying oil, 25 with steel, 75 with cement, 25 with marbles and others with different types of goods travel the road. Some drivers urged the government not to let the Taliban extort truckers while other welcomed the militant check-posts and said security of the area had improved. Some groups stealing goods from trucks had fled the area, they explained. Musa, a driver, said: “With Taliban’s arrival, security threats have gone away and drivers comfortably travel through the area.” Wazir Ahmad Farahi also said dacoits, previously active in the area, robbed drivers of merchandise. But with the establishment of Taliban posts, security had improved and the area, he acknowledged.
Governor Mohammad Arif Shah Jahan confirmed the Taliban presence in Pushtunkothdistrict and extortion of truck drivers by the rebels. “Within the available resources, we are trying to prevent Taliban’s influence.” “The enemy wants to create custom offices in Pushtkoh, Shibkoh, Khak-i-Safid and Bala Baluk districts as a source of income. We have shared the issue with the centre. Kabul has promised taking strict measure to purge these areas of Taliban,” he added.
At more than 20 police check-posts in Pushkoh and Shibkoh districts, as well as the Farahrod area of Bala Baluk district truckers are fleeced, according to driver Khuda-i-Rahim.
“Every truck driver has to pay 1000 to 2,000 or even 3,000 afghanis to police. We are beaten up and insulted and police snatch our cell phones in case we refuse to pay bribes,” he alleged.
A driver who wished to go unnamed charged every trucker had to pay total 20,000 at police posts while traveling the route Between the Shaikh Nasar Port to Farah City, there are 10 police-check-posts. Another 10 exist between Farah City and Farahrod. Based on estimates, 3.6 million afghanis are snatched daily at police posts between Shaikh Nasar Port and Farahrud. The deputy police chief, Gulbahar Bahadur, also confirmed some police post extorted money from truckers. “Though policemen don’t have enough salaries and food, yet they reserve no right to extort drivers. “We will transfer the cops involved in the unlawful practice to other places as part of the reform purpose. If reforms happened, that will be good. If they aren’t enforced, we will have to rethink about them.”
According to a report, a policeman shot dead a truck driver on the Farah-Helmand Road after he refused to bribe the cops. About the extortion issue, which has reached its peak, Gulbahar said the accused policeman had been arrested and was being dealt with under the law. In the past, he recalled, steps had been taken to stop extortion by policemen and many of them had been transferred.
Sayamuddin Pasarlai, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, also verified extortion by police and Taliban. “The issue is not limited to Farah, but exists across the country. In provinces, drivers are fleeced at 30 places while in others the practice is ongoing at 20 places. “In insecure areas, armed groups, including the Taliban, extort drivers. However, in government-controlled areas, police, municipality and powerful individuals have been involved in mass extortion,” said Pasaralai. He added: “We have always raised our voice in support of businessmen and talked in this regard to authorities, including President Ashraf Ghani. The president tasked a commission with investigating the issue but the real problem is that mafia groups have stopped commission members from working honestly and the outcome of the panel’s work remains unknown.” The spokesman continued the common people, not the businessman, suffered due to extortion. Consumers had to pay a steep price for the goods on which business people paid levies, legal and illegal, he concluded.