Afghan traders pay heavy fines to Uzbek authorities
MAZAR-I-SHARIF (PAN): The Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) on Thursday said Afghan traders using the Hairatan port in northern Balkh province had been fined more than $10 million over the past 10 years by Uzbek authorities.
On a daily basis, over 200 cargo rail wagons brought their imports including fuel, fertilizer and other items to Afghanistan through the Hairatan port, the Ibrahimzada Trade company head told Pajhwok Afghan News.
“We have to hire Uzbek cargo wagons because we have no such facility in Afghanistan,” Abbas Ibrahimzada said, adding the shipments were often delayed. They had to pay $60 in fine every time a shipment was delayed, he complained.
He accused government officials of failing to arrange facilities at the port and said the current problems would have a negative impact on the overall import situation.
Pir Mohammad Pirzada, another trader, said they unloaded their imports from Uzbek trains within the stipulated time, but delays occurred due to the absence of transportation facilities in Afghanistan.
Mohammad Tahir Roshanzada, an ACCI official in northern Balkh province, confirmed the demurrage problem. He blamed the government for signing “unfair” agreements with Uzbek officials.
Under the pacts, Afghan traders are to be fined if cargo wagons do not return within 24 hours to Uzbekistan.
According to Eng. Mohammad Yaqub Zazai, an official at the Hairatan port, the fines are imposed as a result of delays in cargo unloading.
Qazi Najibullah, the port director, crticised the officials concerned for failing to take concrete steps for resolution of the problems. Despite frequent visits to the port, the authorities failed to address traders’ concerns, he alleged.
ACCI official Roshanzada said the Afghan government could not use the railroad without permission from Uzbekistan. However, he continued, the two countries recently reviewed the agreements and would try to amend them so as to address Afghan importers’ problems.
Commerce and Industries Ministry spokesman Wahidullah Ghazikhel promised they would build warehouses at the port. But he believed the traders were not affected as much as they complained.
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