Nato supply routes have reopened after a two-week suspension due to an attack by militants in the Jamrud subdivision of Khyber Agency.
Assistant Political Agent Jamrud Bakhtiar Mohmand said that Saturday morning, 15 containers carrying supplies for Nato troops in Afghanistan passed through the Takhta Baig check-post at Jamurd, advancing to the Torkham Pak-Afghan border check-point. “A large number of paramilitary troops also escorted the containers,” he said.
An official of the National Logistics Cell (NLC) at Jamrud, wishing to remain anonymous said that all containers had been checked at the terminal. “Not a single one contained weapons. All of them had food and other basic supplies,” he said.
Haji Zar Badshah, a Landi Kotal political administration official, told The Express Tribune that around 11am Saturday the government once again decided to reopen the supply routes. He said seven containers, escorted by paramilitary troops and loaded with goods for Nato forces, reached Landi Kotal Bazaar at 3pm. “They were then parked at the terminal in Torkham for customs clearance,” he said.
A customs official at the Torkham Terminal said they were working on this weekend, which they usually have off, to confirm whether these containers would be allowed to cross the border.
However, not everyone was pleased with the reopening of the routes. Driver Sherin Gul told The Express Tribune that he was irritated by the erratic opening and closing of the supply routes. He also said that he knew that the job he was doing was extremely dangerous but could not leave his job as his family was undergoing a difficult time. He was forced to carry the Nato goods as he had bought the container on instalments that he has to pay back. “I have to feed my family, that is why I have to put my life on the line,” Gul said.
On July 3, the government decided to reopen Nato supply routes after the US government a public statement about the killing of 24 Pakistani troops at Salala, saying it should not have occurred.
However, on July 24 the government once again stopped the transportation of supplies after unidentified militants opened fire at a container carrying Nato supplies, in which one driver was killed and another injured.
A comprehensive security plan has also been chalked out for Nato supplies passing through the district of Peshawar.
A high-ranking police official, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed that after a private meeting the decision had been finalised. “Initially we will give three hours for the trucks to pass in the morning. We estimate that around 50 trucks will pass through this time,” he said.
The official further said that as part of the plan, oil tankers would not be allowed to be parked outside, and that they would be parked in terminals provided by police. The current strategy is to ‘keep Nato trucks moving’ as militants had attacked stationary targets in all their assaults so far.
President of the Pak-Afghan Oil Tankers and Containers Owners Association, Ruksar Ali, said that there were 18,000 trucks and oil tankers that were dependent on Nato supplies for business. “There is no use of these vehicles locally in Pakistan,” he said, “We are entirely dependent on the transportation of Nato supplies to Afghanistan.”
(with Additional reporting by Riaz Ahmad in Peshawar).
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2012.