Tuesday March 05, 2024

Smuggling causes 60pc drop in people’s purchasing power

December 11, 2023

LANDIKOTAL: The sale of essential goods has witnessed around 60% decline in recent months, attributed to skyrocketing prices, especially for sugar, flour, and pulses in local markets.

Residents and traders in Landikotal and Torkham voiced their concerns on Sunday, attributing the issue to the failure of authorities at the Michini checkpost to deter smuggling to Afghanistan.

Trucks are pictured at the zero point Torkham border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Nangarhar province on December 6, 2023. — AFP
Trucks are pictured at the zero point Torkham border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Nangarhar province on December 6, 2023. — AFP

Residents told this correspondent that despite a strict ban on sugar and flour smuggling due to local market price hikes, illicit activities persist. The profiteers, allegedly supported by police and Deputy Commissioner (DC) Khyber staff at the Michini checkpost, facilitate smugglers by accepting shares of the profits.

This has led to a significant decrease in residents' purchasing power.Ahmad Gul Miankhel, a local shopkeeper, highlighted the impact of banned item smuggling on local markets and said the prices of essential items, particularly sugar and flour, had become unaffordable and decreased the residents’ buying power.

Miankhel said that he used to sell approximately 500 kilograms of sugar each month in the local market a year ago. However, due to the high sugar prices in Afghanistan, sugar consumption in Landikotal has dropped by 80%.

The smuggling issue extends beyond food items, with currencies and foreign-made products like medicines, paan, and cosmetics being trafficked from Pakistan to Afghanistan. This not only negatively affects the daily lives of residents but also causes a decline in revenue due to unchecked smuggling.

Jan Muhammad, a shopkeeper in Torkham town, discussed the smuggling of non-custom paid items, including cigarettes, cloth, separi, medicine, and snuff, into Pakistan from Afghanistan.

He said the banned items loaded in small and heavy vehicles first cross the Torkham border and then pass through a heavily manned Michini checkpost where police and food department contingents are deployed. He said price of sugar jumped to Rs155 per kilogram while a 20kg flour bag reached Rs3000 in Landikotal bazaar. He said the smuggling of foreign goods cost the exchequer millions.

Ali Khan, a resident running a wheel cart in Landikotal bazaar, disclosed how sugar bags were being clandestinely transported in different vehicles to Torkham. He mentioned loading sugar bags onto his wheelbarrow and transporting them to Torkham, where smugglers allegedly pay off police and food department employees stationed at Michni checkpost.

Despite claims of efforts to curb smuggling, a senior customs official acknowledged challenges arising from poor coordination among departments, lack of discipline, and corruption within the police ranks. The scribe attempted to contact deputy commissioner Khyber and the district police officer Khyber for comments but received no response.