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Transporters, tribals to hold jirga on Torkham highway toll tax.

LANDI KOTAL -- Trade with Afghanistan remained suspended on the seventh consecutive day on Friday as the protesting transporters and local tribesmen announced convening a jirga of all the major tribes of Khyber tribal district today (Saturday) to take a final decision

about collection of toll tax by the National Highway Authority from trade vehicles on Peshawar-Torkham Highway.

A spokesman for the protesting transporters, who have established a protest camp at Takiya in Sultankhel on the main highway, Shakir Afridi told Dawn that they had held a marathon round of talks with NHA and local administrative officials two days back.

He said the NHA officials assured them that the collection of toll tax at their Katta Khushtha toll plaza would be stopped after consultations with their senior officials both in Peshawar and Islamabad.

'The contractors are still collecting tax from vehicles taking trade goods to Afghanistan along with light

vehicles taking various items of daily use to local markets,' he said, adding that the NHA officials failed to uphold their pledges made to them in Jamrud meeting.

Mr Afridi said a jirga of all the major tribal elders of Khyber would be held on Saturday (today) and the jirga will be authorised to take a final decision about the status of NHA toll plaza.

'We will not agree to anything short of removing the toll plaza as the federal government has already announced at least five-year tax exemption for the newly-merged tribal districts,' he insisted.

It was also learnt that an armed clash between protesting transporters and Frontier Corps personnel was averted on Thursday night after the intervention of local tribal elders.

Sources said that protesting transporters who had blocked the highway for heavy traffic, forcibly stopped some vehicles of the security forces late on Thursday night to which the FC personnel objected and in retaliation pointed their guns at the protesters.

The situation was however amicably pacified by some local elders who rushed to the place after being approached by some transporters.

Meanwhile, Malakzada Nadeem Afridi, a local social activist criticised the transporters for blocking the main highway which he said had adversely affected bilateral trade with Afghanistan.

He said that the road closure and trade suspension have caused monetary loses to both local transporters and ordinary residents. He demanded of the local administration to help clear the road and resolve the issue through negotiations.

TIRAH ELDERS: Elders of Lozaka Darra in Bar Qambarkhel area of Tirah valley have warned of stern retaliation if the administration tried to impose an activist of a banned militant organisation on them in the name of establishing a peace committee.

Speaking to reporters at Bara Press Club, Tirah elders including Haji Ismail, Kashmir Khan, Malak Adam and Haji Nek Mohammad said that hundreds of local families had fled their homes for safety due to the unlawful and anti-state activities of the activist of the banned organisation.

'The responsibility of any deterioration in the law and order in our region would rest with the government, as we will neither tolerate nor allow a notorious person to take responsibility of restoring peace,' they added.

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Publication:Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Mar 23, 2019
Words:580
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