Orders from the district government and town management authorities are clear as day: do not buy or sell sacrificial animals for Eidul Azha in any other market except the one established by the government. However, people in Swat prefer buying from the open or unofficial market as it is exempt from taxes.
Swat Deputy Commissioner Mehmood Aslam Wazir said he ordered all members of the district government to facilitate people by establishing markets selling livestock. He added grounds were earmarked in every tehsil for people to conduct business. Barikot, Charbagh, Shamozai, Kalam, Kabal, Matta and Khwazakhela areas all had allocated spots, but most people prefer to deal in the open market, added the DC. Wazir said no action had been taken against them thus far.
“It’s different in the cities. In rural areas, people do business according to their own will and we should not impose our laws on them” he maintained. Wazir said a market was specially established for people in Mingora in an area called Bangladesh. “Due to the lack of space in Mingora, we allocated that area for the sale of animals,” he said. “People are not allowed to do business on the streets of Mingora.”
Outside the tax bracket
Shafi Khan, a resident of Kanju, said he and his family members preferred to buy animals from the informal market due to the Rs200 tax to be paid by buyer and seller.
Rahmat Shah, a cattle dealer, said he drove up with four trucks of cattle including calves, cows and buffaloes from Sahiwal to sell them in Swat, also in the informal markets. “I have sold out two trucks while as many still remain (unsold),” he explained. Shah said he also hired agents who were given animals to sell on commission in different tehsils. “I cannot keep these animals for long and need to sell them for Eid” he stated.
Noorullah, who has been dealing in animals for a long time, said they were cheaper in Swat this year as compared to 2014. “Due to the fear of floods, many people from the mountainous region shifted to these areas and are now selling their cattle” he revealed. He pointed out that prices saw a significant drop in the Malakand Division in general and Swat in particular.
Noorullah highlighted that people from mountainous regions preferred sheep and goats to cows or buffaloes. “It is hard for them to find food for bigger animals before the winter sets in so it is better to get rid of them before the season arrives.”
Nazir Khan, a local cattle dealer, said the price of sheep started at Rs15,000 and went up to Rs25,000. On the other hand, cows ranged from Rs25,000 to Rs0.1 million, while buffaloes were going for between Rs0.1 million to Rs0.15 million per animal.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2015.