Peshawar           -         While the Afghan borders at Torkham, Chaman and Ghulam Khan have been opened for trade six days a week and pedestrians one day each week, drivers transporting goods across the borders have complained of a number of problems.

Though a terminal was set up for vehicles in Torkham border town, but due to lack of space the vehicles were used to be parked in Jamrud and Landi Kotal areas along Pak-Afghan highway, which often disrupts flow of traffic and also created problems. Later, the civil and military authorities selected Akakhel area of Bara sub-division for a terminal where vehicles in large numbers are parked.

A driver, Dost Muhammad, told this scribe that each vehicle is charged Rs.1000 by the transporters union, Rs.300 for weighing purpose, and Rs.150 per night of stay.  “I have been waiting here for the last 11 days. Nowadays, the drivers have to offer thousands of rupees to the terminal’s management to move ahead with ease, otherwise we may have to wait for days and weeks in the terminal,” he added.

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the drivers are also changed at the border. An Afghan driver, after entering Pakistani soil, hands over the vehicle to Pakistani driver. Pakistani drivers do the same when they cross the border in Afghanistan.

However, the owners of the vehicles are concerned at this move since they say sometimes precious parts are removed from the vehicles by the drivers of the other country. They say they are losing huge money on the parts of the vehicles and also sometimes the vehicles are roughly driven and there are more chances of accidents.

Another driver, Pukhtoon Khan, said that he had reached the terminal in Khyber from Karachi within four days but now he had been stuck in the Khyber district for the last two weeks. It may be mentioned here that currently there are around 3000 vehicles at Akakhel terminal in Khyber district.

The drivers also complain that besides Rs.1000 upon entry into the terminal, more than Rs.15000 are demanded from drivers who wish to leave the terminal earlier.

Manager of the terminal on Frontier Road, Shakir Afridi, rejected the claims about bribery and said no one was taking money from drivers to change their turns for crossing the border. “Earlier vehicles were parked at Takhta Beg, but there were complaints of corruption in that area, which prompted the authorities to set up the terminal here,” he said.

“First a vehicle is registered upon entry into the terminal. We receive three kinds of vehicles, i.e those from Afghanistan, Pakistan and local small vehicles and the load of vehicles is increasing day by day. Here we have a staff of 47 people, and I appeal to all transporters to come here and mention who has taken money from them, except Rs.1000 that is charged,” he added.

Khyber Chamber of Commerce President Col (Retd) Siddiq Afridi told The Nation that he himself has asked several transporters to obtain evidence for corruption in the terminals and any extra money being taken, so that action could be taken then. “It’s a fact that there are sometimes vehicles containing perishable items and their transporters are even ready to pay extra money to get an early turn to leave the terminal,” he added.

District Police Officer (DPO) Muhammad Iqbal said that there were more than 2000 vehicles in Akakhel while daily 250 vehicles are cleared for crossing the border. He said that some transporters of Landi Kotal had started levelling allegations to malign the staging area/terminal in Akakhel as they wanted such a facility to be set up in their area in Landi Kotal.

“We can take action, provided we are given any evidence of corruption or extra money being taken from transporters to clear their vehicles for onward journey,” he added.