Repatriation to Afghanistan
Locals start taking shops on rent
PESHAWAR: Almost all the Afghan traders dealing in antiques at the historic Ander Shehar Bazaar have quit business ahead of the final date for the repatriation of Afghan refugees.
The busy Shinwari Market in Ander Shehar, which is the main jewellery centre in the heart of the city, was wearing a deserted lookon Mondayas many shops were closed. Those present at half-open shops were seen packing up while preparing to depart for their homeland in the next few days.
An Afghan trader, Nazeer, toldThe News, there were only four Afghan traders left at the second floor of market while the rest had gone.
Hailing from Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, the 35-year old trader said his 60 relatives and family members had already repatriated while the rest were planning to return to their native country in the near future.
He was confident that his business would flourish in Afghanistan. Recalling the past, he said he was one-year old when his family moved to Pakistan but now he was a father.A local goldsmith, Mushtaq Ahmad, who has been doing business at Ander Shehar for 15 years, said around 330 antique shops owned by the Afghan traders had been closed.
He recalled this market was a busy place where business of millions of rupees was conducted daily but now very few customers come there.Though the antique business was badly affected after the 9/11 attacks on the US and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan by the Americans as the foreigners stopped visiting Peshawar but even then no local trader could find a shop for rent in this market. Now almost 100 local jewellers and skilled men preparing gold ornaments in the narrow streets near Ander Shehar have rented shops there.
Earlier, they could not even imagine renting a shop due to the high rents in the presence of Afghans, but now a shop can be rented for Rs4,000 a month even at the first floor of the market.
A local trader said most Afghan refugees dealing in antiques and handicrafts had concentrated on this historic bazaar and rented shops. He said some of them rented shops for use as godowns. He said some of these shops are still being used by the Afghans to keep precious antiques. “They pay the monthly rent but visit the shops occasionally,” the trader added.
Some locals think that Peshawar would lose another tourist charm if the business of antiques and handicrafts dwindled.Haseeb Ahmad, a jeweller, recalled that he had seen the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and other dignitaries including foreigners purchasing antiques and precious items in Ander Shehar.An aging gold expert, Jamshed Khan, said the local people had no interest in antiques. He said most of the Afghan traders had links in Afghanistan and earned handsome money.