Living in dread of Taliban attacks

Truckers become impatient as Nato supplies remain suspended for ninth day in a row.


Express October 09, 2010

Nato oil tankers and containers await a green signal as the supply route from Pakistan remained suspended on the ninth consecutive day on Friday.

Containers and oil tankers have been parked at the Torkham border and Nato’s Peshawar terminal. Drivers and conductors of these vehicles hope they will be able to go home as soon as possible.

Nine days have gone by since the supply route into Afghanistan was suspended officially for security reasons. However, this coincided with the Nato incursion into the Kurram tribal region.  Although the drivers want to go home as soon as they can, they continue to wait for further orders.

Living in dread of another Taliban attack at the country’s shuttered border with Afghanistan, 32-year-old trucker Muhammad Imam says he just wants to make it home alive to see his only son.

Since the government shut the Torkham border point on September 30 to Nato traffic, in protest to a deadly chopper strike on its soil, Imam’s job of moving supplies for the coalition force has become more hazardous. The Taliban, aiming to close the Nato supply line through Pakistan and avenge the US drone strikes in tribal areas, have torched 120 Nato vehicles since the closure.

“I don’t want to face the same fate,” says Imam, resting on a rug next to two burnt-out containers attacked last week, as he waits for the border crossing to reopen and allow him to continue on his dangerous journey.

“I want to go home alive and see my only son,” says the driver, from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

“I am really upset; this business is now really life-threatening. I will decide whether to quit once I’ve finished this trip.”

Imam drives one of about 6,500 vehicles stranded in the country that are meant to supply the 152,000 US-led troops fighting the war in Afghanistan, which this week entered its 10th year.

Driver Muhammad Amin, a 42-year-old father of seven from Karachi says this will be the only time he ventures across the border.

“This is my first and last trip to Afghanistan,” says Amin, who was wooed by the promise of a lump-sum payment of Rs20,000 for the trip from Karachi, compared to a usual monthly salary of Rs10,000.

“We are stuck up here afraid of Taliban attacks,” he says, sitting with a dusty face and dirty clothes. Amin vows to return to his routine driving job. So does driver Zahid Khan, 50, although his reasons are different - he admits to sympathising with the militants being struck by US drones and feels guilty for his Nato work.

“When the Americans killed two soldiers, Pakistan closed this whole border, but the drone attacks are killing dozens of tribesmen and nobody takes any notice,” said the father of nine from Waziristan.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2010.

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