Bribes continue to be paid at Torkham scale
JALALABAD (PAN): Traders and truckers on Monday complained they were continued to be asked for illegal money under various pretexts at the Torkham dry port in eastern Nangarhar province, despite the acting governor’s claim the issue had been resolved.
Truckers said government officials took money from them in the garb of Nangarhar reconstruction, Ghazi development projects and vehicle scale charges.
In the past, former governor Gul Agha Sherzai was accused of pocketing money received in bribes from truckers and traders at the port, but the governor had denied the charges.
Sherzai has resigned as governor to contest next year’s presidential election.
In interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, the acting governor Mohammad Hanif Gardiwal has said not a single penny would be taken illegally from traders.
He said he had sent letters to all the departments concerned and had warned them against seeking illegal gratifications.
However, traders and drivers said the issue of taking illegal money from them had resurfaced after a brief lull.
A trader representative, who wished not to be named, told Pajhwok Afghan News Gardiwal’s warning helped stop the extortion for only two days.
“Today we were asked to pay money at the scale of Public Works Ministry for reconstruction process,” he said, alleging some traders, who had connections with government officials, were paying the illegal money, but would not object.
As Pajhwok tried to interview individuals taking money under the pretext of reconstruction, they made their escape good from the area.
A truck driver, Nasrullah, said it was a few minutes ago when he was forced into paying 1,500 afghanis.
He said earlier they would be asked to pay fixed money for the clearance of their vehicles at the government scale, but now drivers were asked for money as much as they could afford to pay. “It is a positive change.”
“Those who demand money from us are new faces. The previous individuals were the men of governor, but I don’t know who the new ones are.”
On a visit to the scale, Pajhwok observed money was taken from drivers under various pretexts.
When asked why did he pay the money to scale officials, Nasraullah said he carried three tonnes extra goods against the permissible weight.
He said before giving the money to scale officials, he had already paid 3,000 Pakistani rupees in bribe to a customs official.
Provincial council member Angiz Shinwari said they had been informed about the bribes being taken at the dry port.
A provincial public works department official confirmed bribes were continued to be sought at the scale. Wishing anonymity, he said the illegal money was being taken by a nephew and friends of the public works director.
“There has been no change. About 20 days ago, the director sent some individuals with the consent of the governor’s house to the scale.”
Another official said one of the individuals worked for acting governor Gardiwal.
Public works director Rassoul Gul Faqir said he would not completely rule out the illegal practice. He said the scale had been formally handed over to his department by the governor’s house.
But Gardiwal said he had completely banned taking illegal money from drivers and traders at the scale. He said the scale officials might have taken advantage of Eid holidays, but he would investigate into the issue.
He said only the public works officials were responsible to handle the scale and no one else had the right to take money from drivers.
The acting governor said anyone found guilty of receiving illegal money would be referred to the prosecutor’s office.
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