CHITRAL - Hundreds of people from Garam Chashma protested against Tehsil Municipal Administration [TMA] for imposing tax on transportation of potato out of Chitral.

They gathered at the polo ground to protest against the imposition of, 'what they called', unfair tax on transportation of potato out of the valley.

Speakers on the occasion said that the government did not ensure repair to the dilapidated road to Garam Chashma, forcing the locals to repair it on a self-help basis. "Now the TMA has swung into action and imposed tax on transportation of potato out of the valley through the road," they regretted.

They said that the TMA had never helped local farmers by supplying them water or constructing canals, adding that the growers had to manage these resources on their own. "Therefore, imposition of Rs160 per bag tax on the transportation of potato is unfair," they stated. The protesters gave the TMA a deadline of 48 hours to withdraw the tax. They threatened to stage a hunger strike camp otherwise.

Meanwhile, former MPA Saleem Khan told this correspondent on phone from Peshawar that the TMA had tried to impose this kind of tax in 2012. "But the locals moved court against the TMA decision and were given a verdict in their favour," he added.

He said that the tax was also illegal in the sense that the TMA had never provided any service to the people of Lotkoh; therefore, it was unjustifiable to levy a tax on them. Saleem Khan alleged that the TMA auctioned its tender for only Rs5 million, adding "If they charge Rs160 per bag, they will collect Rs400 million." "By doing so, the officer concerned only benefiting his relative (contractor)," he maintained.

The protestors including Engr Fazal Rabi, Aitibar Khan, Qayum Khan, Advocate Sherin Khan, Rehmat Khan and others warned that they would be compelled to migrate to neighbouring country Afghanistan if the TMA did not withdraw the tax. Giving a deadline of 48 hours, they warned that they would come on roads against the TMA Chitral after the expiration of the deadline.

This scribe tried to contact Tehsil Nazim and Tehsil Municipal Officer but their cell phones were switched off.