After the closure of Nato supply routes rendered thousands of transporters jobless, an unsuspecting group of merchants at Karkhano market were also dealt a blow to their incomes.
Sitara Market is in the famous Karkhano market where goods stolen from Nato supply containers are sold. Used goods are also brought to the market from Afghanistan. Fujinon 7x binoculars are available for as low as Rs12,000 (approximately $125 dollars), whereas the full market price can reach $550. This price is, however, lacking any sort of warranty. Fujinon is marketed as a German brand in the bazaar, while the American brand Bushnell is considered to be Chinese.
The suspension of Nato supplies had inflicted great damage on the business of stolen goods. Lahori Suliman Bhutt says the experience becomes even more exciting when one knows the actual value of the international brands. “I found a jacket made of goose down for just Rs2,000 which would cost at least $300 in Europe or America,” he said. Bhutt says he had actually come to buy a laptop but found more interesting things to buy in Sitara market. “Jackets, binoculars, fans, table lamps, hiking bags, military boots – all are sold at reasonable prices,” he said. A bulletproof jacket is available for Rs 25,000 and US military boots for Rs 4,000.
Another avid buyer, Sikander Khan from Peshawar, said he once bought what he thought was a real Breitling watch for just Rs5,000 and was happy to have swindled the shopkeeper into selling it much below its marked price. However, when he showed it to an expert it turned out to be a cheap replica of the world famous Breitling, usually sold for Rs500, a tenth of what he paid.
Talking to The Express Tribune, a shopkeeper, requesting anonymity, said that in previous months the stolen goods had been kept in warehouses but there was a shortage of goods recently. “Normally when goods are stolen from containers they are not brought to the market immediately,” he said.
The shopkeeper said that goods were normally stored for three or four months, which is why there was no immediate shortage around the time that the Nato routes were blocked.
Nato goods arrive at the Karachi port and are then transported to Afghanistan through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The supply routes were closed for seven months from November 2011 after US troops killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in Salala. The routes were reopened in July after diplomatic talks.
When times get rough, market vendors resort to selling Chinese and locally made goods under the guise of stolen goods. “I sell locally made textiles and towels. People buy them without asking many questions,” a vendor said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2012.