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PESHAWAR: Customs with the support of District Khyber Police moved to Barra link road to set up a mechanism for staging and smooth flow of cargo traffic to Torkham border. In order to empty the current illegal terminals a picket was set up by customs and police near Ajab Talab police post ahead of the terminals so that incoming vehicles could be stopped from reaching the terminals till they are completely vacant.

Meanwhile, some representatives of the alleged illegal union attacked the Ajab Talab picket around 1pm and tried to snatch weapons from customs and police personnel. However, it was effectively thwarted.

An alternative set up for parking trucks was established in the proposed Shahid Afridi sports ground located on the same Barra link road.

The land of the proposed ground and surrounding areas is owned by the local tribe. Some part of the land is being acquired by FC North for the proposed ground. FC, District administration and local tribal elders were taken into confidence before setting up the parking spot.

Locals had assured that they would not charge any parking fee for three weeks. During these three weeks a more appropriate solution will be developed with the help of district administration.

Union leaders were called by the police for negotiations. A representative of the Customs informed the union that their activities are totally illegal and it is appropriate that they voluntarily leave the place and not create law and order situation.

They were informed that from that point onward customs will manage movement of cargo on the principle of FIFO. They took two days' time for making a decision. Customs has set up three posts 1st at Ajab Talab, second at Shahid Afridi ground and third at Takhta baig. Cargo is being moved in three streams (Transit, export and perishable etc.) with distinctive colour coding. Staff has been posted in three shifts at all three points to work round the clock. FC North was also taken on board and they have assured of complete support. Tents and other items for setting up customs posts were also provided by FC.

In future, the district administration to regulate the parking area by issuing NOCs to the parking area, setting up facilities like wash rooms and drinking water and to prescribe upper cap of parking fee to be charged. A three-week grace period will be effectively used by district administration for the necessary paperwork in this regard.

Meanwhile acquisition of land for a permanent staging area for Customs should also be initiated by district administration. Attempts of disruption from the union reps in the form of road blocks or attacks on posts are anticipated. Police and FC to be directed to be present with customs staff all the time for the initial few weeks.

RFID terminals for a more effective solution will be installed within one week after Eid. Despite all odds, customs is holding the fort and is regulating the cargo movement effectively.

Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) and Frontier Customs Agents Group has appreciated and extended full support to the efforts of Pakistan Customs for removing hurdles in trade with Afghanistan and has stressed need for relaxation of Covid-19 related SOPs to expedite the movement of cross border.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020