Pakistani transporters who carry Nato supplies to land-locked Afghanistan have gone on strike, disrupting the flow of goods to Western forces in a protest against a new customs regime aimed at cutting theft.
The supply route is an important lifeline for international forces in landlocked Afghanistan. The coalition ships a significant portion of its nonlethal supplies through Pakistan into southern Afghanistan. The other land route into Afghanistan through Central Asia and Russia is longer and more expensive.
Jehanzeb Khan, head of a transport workers union, says the strike began Wednesday in response to the government’s decision to require truckers to go through authorized companies to carry NATO supplies instead of making individual deals.
The truckers say that the new rules are corrupt and will cost them a large portion of the money they would normally earn from shipping into occupied Afghanistan, and so they are unwilling to do so until Pakistan reverses the ban.
The All Pakistan Goods Transportation Association has been unofficially blockading 4,000 vehicles carrying supplies to and from coalition forces in Afghanistan for the past six days.
Khan said truckers in northwest Pakistan stopped carrying NATO supplies Wednesday, and he was reaching out to others throughout the country to get them to join the strike.
Haneef Khan Marwat, head of a transportation company in the southern city of Karachi, said some truckers began their strike as early as Jan. 4 and thousands of vehicles are involved. He said the strike would continue until the government reversed its new policy.
NATO is so far refusing to comment on the latest halt of shipments, but in the past lack of access to Pakistan cost them $100 million per month, obliging them to use pricier overland routes through the former Soviet Union. This could be even more costly this time, as many NATO nations are shipping massive quantities of equipment back out of the country as part of the drawdown as well.