Afghanistan sellers wary of increasing customs tax on fresh fruits by Pakistan

Afghanistan sellers are frustrated by Pakistan’s action of increasing customs tariffs on fresh fruit every year during the export season and said if the tariffs continue it will incur heavy losses to them, media reports said.

The country’s fruit growers and sellers criticized the increased customs tariffs and said that the action will obstruct their profits, reported Afghanistan’s local media outlet Tolo News.

Mohammad Ullah, a seller said, “Apple customs taxes have again been increased by Pakistan, previously customs were approximately 12,000 but now have increased to 40,000, 50,000. If it continues like this, we will have a big loss.” Another issue that has been brought to light is the increased traffic at the crossing of Pakistan. The Afghanistan Fruit and Vegetable Traders Union said that because of the increased customs tariffs, more cars are coming to a stop at the crossing area.

As per the media portal quoting the Union, currently, Pakistan charges no taxes on some vegetables but increases it for fresh fruit. “We call on the current government to make an agreement at the start of the year with Pakistan so Pakistan can make changes in customs tariffs until the end of the year,” said Akhtar Mohammad Ahmadi, head of the Union of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.

Moreover, the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment highlighted the shortage of flights for facilitating the exports of fresh fruits.

“The only market we have is South Asia–Pakistan and India–and our fundamental problem is the lack of an air corridor for exporting fresh fruit. We have exported through the air corridor 20,000 to 25,000 tons fruit every year,” said Khan Jan Alkozay, senior vice chairman of the ACCI.

As Afghanistan continues to witness a debilitating rights situation, the UN body for humanitarian affairs expressed concerns over the grave condition pointing out that 25 million people in the country are living in poverty, media reports said.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Afghanistan and the World Food Program (WFP) has voiced concerns over the rising food insecurity and poverty that has gripped the country’s people, Afghanistan’s local media Tolo News reported.

Taking to Twitter, OCHA in Afghanistan said that 25 million people in Afghanistan are facing poverty. “19 million people are facing food insecurity, 25 million people are living in poverty, 5.8 million people are in protracted internal displacement, and thousands of houses are damaged by floods and earthquakes. To survive the winter, they require food, nutrition support, warm clothing & a roof over their heads,” tweeted OCHA.

Meanwhile, the World Food Program has voiced concerns about the economic crisis in Afghanistan. “The economic crisis wiped out jobs, salaries & livelihoods across Afghanistan, helping families & communities support themselves is more important than ever,” said WFP on Twitter.

“A nation cannot reach prosperity until the poverty and unemployment are eradicated, so the way that can end poverty and unemployment is strengthening the private sector, attracting investment and creating employment in the country,” said Abdul Naseer, a political analyst.

Moreover, Human rights groups called on the United Nations for stronger accountability in Afghanistan. In an open letter to the UN, they called for the establishment of a dedicated accountability mechanism by the Human Rights Council (HRC), alongside the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, reported Tolo News.

“The signatory organizations call your attention to the deplorable state of human rights in Afghanistan and in particular the absolute lack of accountability for gross and systematic human rights violations and abuses, including crimes under international law, occurring in Afghanistan, especially against women and girls, ethnic and religious minorities, journalists, and human rights defenders,” the letter read.

Richard Bennett is the current UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, and the renewal of his post was called for in the open letter, reported Tolo News.

“The Western countries will call for the renewal of Richard Bennett. China and Russia will also accept it but the report of Richard Bennett is made from outside Afghanistan. For better transparency, it is better than Richard Bennett to stay in Kabul and write the report from Kabul,” said Torek Farhadi, a political analyst.

This comes as the Taliban has repeatedly denied the reports of the violations of human rights, and called them baseless, reported Tolo News. The Taliban stressed that it is committed to human rights and women’s rights based on Islamic values.

Since the Taliban seized power in Kabul last year, the human rights situation has been exacerbated by a nationwide economic, financial and humanitarian crisis of unprecedented scale.

The Taliban dismantled the system to respond to gender-based violence, created new barriers to women accessing health care, blocked women’s aid workers from doing their jobs, and attacked women’s rights protesters.

With the US troops’ withdrawal from the country, large-scale violence has been unleashed creating political uncertainty in different parts of the country. At least 59 per cent of the population is now in need of humanitarian assistance – an increase of 6 million people compared with the beginning of 2021, according to UNAMA.