FARAH City (Pajhwok): Despite their claims regarding a significant reduction in bribery, police in western Farah province extort more than one million afghanis from truck drivers on a daily basis.
Well-placed source say the extortion of money from truck drivers continues unabated. On the other hand, police claim a 60pc reduction in bribery and illegal; gratification.
Lying cheek by jowl with the Iranian border in Farah, the Abu Nasar Farahi Dry Port is a major business hub. Trade goods and services arrive at this port, from where are trucked to other provinces of the country.
Over the last few years, truckers have been complaining of being extorted by police. Businessmen, by the same token, hit out at the bad behavior of security personnel. They insist local officials are not serious about improving the situation.
Juma Gul, one of the truckers who were on way to the Abu Nasar Farahi Port from Bala Baluk district, also came hard on what he called the “immoral behaviour” of police.
He deplored the drivers, if they declined meeting illegal police demands, were insulted, tortured, kicked and thrashed with fists.
He estimated there were more than 10 police check-posts on the road. At every check-post, the driver charged, each trucker was coerced into paying 500 to 2,000 afs.
Juma Gul, branding policemen as thieves, accused them of refusing flatly to accept legal and credible receipts from the Customs Department.
“When we show them such receipts, they reject them and say they are not bound to comply with orders from anywhere. They say that they don’t accept even President Ghani’s order, forget about others.”
Drivers want provincial officials to control the situation, say shabby police behavior had become a routine affair. Higher-ups, however, have not yet taken any action against the cops.
Another trucker, who wished not to be named, remarked: “If we refuse giving them money, they can go as far as to shoot us. We have been witness to such incidents, still alive in our memory.”
Wazir, another truck driver, echoed Juma Gul’s remarks and assailed Farah police for their gross negligence in addressing this grave issue concerning extortion.
He claimed extortion of truckers at gunpoint in Farah had become a routine practice. “They ask why there is a yawning gap between the government and people.
“I swear if you once go with a truck driver and witness police behavior, you can judge how to deal with police.”
A number of other drivers narrated similar stories and asked relevant government officials to ensure extortion was stopped and truck drivers not asked for illegal money.
They said the extortion issue had been shared repeatedly with the authorities concerned. But the problem remained unaddressed, the drivers’ representative lamented.
Haji Mir Wali Sulemankhel, head of the Truck Drivers’ Union and representative of crude oil and gas businessmen, estimated on average 60 trucks transferred crude oil from Abu Nasar Port daily.
Police and border security personnel snatch 150,000 afs illegally at gunpoint from the truckers. A total of 12 police posts are situated on this route, Sulemankhel pointed out.
Major extortion and torture happened at checkpoints in Pusht-i-Koh district, Baghpal (two km from the provincial capital) and police headquarters, he believed.
Similarly, he maintained that checkpoints in Kansak and Bala Baluk districts, as well as the border and highway brigades were involved in brazen bribery and misbehaviour.
Sulemankhel recalled every truck paid 40,000 afs last month while moving from Abu Nasar Port to the point where Farah territory ended. Currently, he said, extortion had fallen by 15,000 afs after drivers complained to the governor’s office, provincial council, the police headquarters and other institutions.
Abdul Wazir, representative of truckers, during chat with Pajhwok Afghan News, said he transferred 40 loaded trucks from Abdu Nasar Port to Farah City and police took 6,500 afs illegally from every vehicle on it rout.
Over one million afs extortion daily:
According to daily extortion figures, provided by Abdul Wazir, from light vehicles and information provided by Haji Mir Wali Sulaimankhel, heavy vehicles union, regarding extortion of money from heavy trucks, one can say police daily made 1160000 afs.
|Daily illegal extortion table from trucks|
|Total extorted amount||Extortion amount from onene one vehicle||Total Vehicles||Vehicle type|
|1160,000||Total Extorted amount from vehicles|
Allegation: Company extorts drivers belonging to an MP and an officer:
Haji Mir Wali, head of the Truckers Union, in a voice message to Haji Abdul Sattar Hussaini, a member of Parliament (MP) from Farah province, said he company was involved in extortion and immoral behavior: “The police chief is not guilty when it comes to the rights of the people of Farah because dollars are sent from the same check-point to Kabul and this check point belongs to Haji Qadar Jan, deputy police chief of Farah and HumayonShaheedzada, public representative of Farah people in Wolesi Jirga. When a common person has information in this regard then how could an interior minister remain unaware about this.”
In another clip Haji Abdul SattarHussaini told Interior Minister in a voice message that businessmen were fed up with the highway company. Instead of benefit, businessmen are suffering at the hands of the highway company and this force should be removed as soon as possible.
Abdul SattarHussaini could not reach for comment while Shaheedzada acknowledged extortion in Farah province.
He said no check-point belonged to him, adding that recently as a result of his and some other lawmakers support, 14 policemen, including High Company chief, were removed from their posts over corruption charges.
Referring to the allegations of extortion, Shaheedzada said some circles could not digest his political success therefore they leveled baseless allegations.
He said individuals with this claim should provide evidence to support their claims.
Deputy Police Chief Haji Qadar Jan also rejected extortion allegations and said: “This is not true, these allegations are leveled by agents, police receive salary, food allowance, individuals making these allegations should tell in which check-point extortion is taking place.”
In another audio voice clip Farah Police Chief Col. GhulamSakhiGhafoori tells Haji Mir Wali: “May Allah destroy these elements for their robbery and extortion. We are dealing with terrorism to protect people. They know nothing except robbery.”
“Tell the drivers not to cry, we will remove the company and put their facility on fire,” he said.
The police official told Pajhwok Afghan News that last month the situation was totally out of control and currently slight improvement had been made.
He added unfriendly circumstances and long distance between check-points allowed police and High Company to extort drivers. He assured the people of bringing the extortion to zero level.
Two months earlier, the Ministry of Interior announced the removal of 186 personnel over their involvement in alleged extortion.
Of the total removed personnel, 135 were highway personnel while 51 were police from Kabul City entrance gates.
This report has been produced by Pajhwok and financially supported by UNDP and Denmark.