Traffic on Kabul-Herat highway down by a half
KANDAHAR CITY (Pajhwok): Transporters in southern Kandahar province say recent security incidents on the Kabul-Herat highway have negatively impacted their business and the number of travelers on the road had reduced by a half.
In a major disrepair due to the conflict, bridges on the road have been blown up by Taliban insurgents and kidnappings and robbery incidents have lately increased on the route traversing Kabul, Maidan Wardak, Kandahar, Zabul, Ghazni, Farah and Herat provinces.
About a month ago, masked gunmen snatched 30 passengers from two buses on the highway in southern Zabul province’s Shahjoy district and the fate of the hostages remains unknown despite a major operation to rescue them.
Again two days ago, 10 passengers were kidnapped on the highway in Jaghori district of southern Ghazni province from two vehicles, but later nine of them were rescued, but one remained in captivity.
These incidents have worried people who are reluctant to travel on the highway, according to transporters. They claimed traffic on the road had declined by a half.
An official of Ahmad Shah Abdali Bus Service, Dr. Ahmadullah, told Pajhwok Afghan News their company was the largest in Afghanistan and their buses ferried passengers from Kandahar to Kabul, Helmand, Nimroz, Herat and other provinces, but the trips had declined due to recent incidents of kidnapping.
“During the past years, our 60 to 80 buses would ply between Kandahar and Kabul alone in 24 hours, but their number has decreased to 20 and 30 these days.”
He said the road had long been in a dilapidated condition and bridges on the road had been destroyed. He said robberies and harassment of passengers by insurgents had lately increased particularly on the road’s most insecure part in Ghazni province.
He said the highway’s Ghazni portion had badly damaged and witnessed frequent incidents of robberies and interception of vehicles by Taliban militants. “No one is safe on this road now. Fearing for their lives, passengers and traders avoid journey on the road.”
Traffic on the road was controlled only in Kandahar, where police did not allow heavy vehicles to enter Kandahar City before 10am, Ahmadullah continued.
He said there was no control over traffic on the road elsewhere and tragic traffic accidents occurred as a result.
He talked about robbery incidents on the highway in western Farah province’s Farahrud district and said: “Robbers in the area are ruthless, they stop vehicles at gunpoint, kill drivers and take away their vehicles.”
It was few days ago, when armed robbers shot dead a number of drivers and stole their vehicles, he said, accusing police of forcibly taking bribes from goods carrying vehicles instead of providing security to them.
“There are security posts along the highway, but the security personnel are only able to protect themselves,” he said, urging the Ministry of Interior to improve security on the highway to enable commuters and traders to fearlessly travel on the road.
A driver on the Kabul-Kandahar highway, Abdul Majeed, said the road was in good condition from Kandahar to Zabul’s Jaldalak area only. He said Taliban had blown up bridges 100 metres from security posts.
Passengers also expressed similar views. They said high-ranking officials, when needed, travelled to Kandahar from Kabul by air because they knew the road’s security condition.
Kandahar police spokesman Zia Durrani said security forces had been able to provide complete security on the road between Kandahar and Kabul and from Zabul’s Shahr-i-Safa to Herat and then Maiwand district of Kandahar.
He said police continuously patrolled these areas so that passengers could travel fearlessly to various provinces.
He said besides the Kabul-Kandahar road, police were providing security on the road between Kandahar and Uruzgan province and other roads leading to districts. Durrani said they were trying to improve security on roads in coordination with security forces in neighbouring provinces.
Zabul police chief Ghulam Sakhi Rogh Lewanai said they had completely secured the 120-km portion of the Kabul-Herat highway that traversed Zabul province.
He said 30 police security posts had been established on the road passing through Zabul and insurgents could not dare to emerge on the road and harass passengers. He said the militants could only fire at the road from a long distance in remote parts.
Rogh Lewanai also rejected the impression that the 30 passengers had been kidnapped in Zabul, saying they were kidnapped in Ghazni. He promised to intensify their efforts at improving security on the road.
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