KARACHI – The Nato-led international security forces, fighting militancy in the landlocked Afghanistan, have signed agreements with the Afghan importers for the transportation of supplies through transit country, Pakistan, under the cover of commercial cargo, it emerged on Tuesday. Further, according to well-paced sources, the Afghan importers have signed separate agreements with Pakistani logistic firms for the supply of thousands of containers under commercial cargo that, they said, would in fact go to the multinational military alliance in Afghanistan.
Post-Nov 26 blockade by Islamabad on the transit of Nato cargo through Pakistan had made the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ink these agreements with the Afghan importers under which the latter would ensure cargo supplies to the former up to 2014, said the sources.
The agreements’ timeframe stands important, strategically, if viewed in the backdrop of Washington’s 2014 deadline for completing its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. “At least five Afghan companies are in agreement with Nato,” the sources linked to Pak-Afghan Transit Trade confided to Profit without naming the firms.
ONCE IN A BLUE MOON
They said the Nato, perhaps anticipating such a ban, had already been importing some cargo through a couple of Afghan importers for quite some time. “Those imports used to be once in a blue moon, but the things have been formalised after November 26,” the sources added. Detailing the transportation of Nato-cargo as commercial cargo, the sources said after November 26 Pakistan Customs had blocked the clearance of Nato’s non-commercial cargo including essential items like food, cables, infra and other equipment used for setting up the communication network.
Nato supplies, they said, used to be cleared by customs authorities on the basis of a sort of exemption letter called “Mafi Nama” whereas the commercial goods are cleared on the basis of a license called “Jawaz Nama”. Mafi Nama and Jawaz Nama are Afghan terminologies with the former meaning that the imported goods were destined for Nato or diplomatic staff in the American embassy in Afghanistan.
“The Nato and Afghan importers, after clinching the supply deal, have replaced Mafi Nama with the Jawaz Nama that allows them to get the non-commercial cargo cleared as commercial one,” the sources claimed.
THREE CONTAINER TERMINALS
They said Nato cargo was being transported through Pakistan’s three container terminals, QICT, KICT and PICT. Officials at the container terminals also doubt that Nato supplies were going to Afghanistan under the garb of commercial cargo. “We suspect this is happening as the volume of commercial cargo has increased sharply,” said an official at PICT. “But we have no proof in hand to prove this,” the official added.
Asked if customs authorities in Pakistan had ever sensed the irregularity, the sources said the customs officials, tending to act as per law, take into account three things: the manifest of cargo, the consignee of cargo and the original documents.
“When suspicious they (customs officers) refer the documents to the Afghan embassy in Pakistan which certify the same,” the sources said claiming that the diplomatic staff at Afghan embassy was also aware of the entire situation.
To cater to Nato’s demand, the sources said, Afghan importers had signed separate agreements with Pakistani logistic companies.
PAK-US DIPLOMATIC TUSSLE
“The Pakistani logistic firms presently have huge demand from Afghanistan for the transportation of commercial cargo,” they said adding this increased demand had created congestion at Pakistani seaports already chock-a-block with hundreds of stranded containers destined for Nato. “The current congestion at ports is partly because of increased demand for commercial cargo from Afghanistan,” the sources said.
The ongoing Pak-US stratego-diplomatic tussle proved to be a kind of blessing in disguise for the Afghan importers who, the sources said, are pocketing handsome amounts out of supply orders from the Nato. “They are happily keeping huge security deposits amounting to five to six lac rupees with the shipping lines,” the sources claimed.