KARACHI - Having rolled up their sleeves for transporting NATO supplies after a seven months-long blockade, the haulers are deeply concerned for their security in view of warnings issued by the Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC).
However, the DPC, an alliance of at least 40 politico-religious parties, plans to record its protest “democratically” by staging peaceful sit-ins along NATO supply routes, calling an All Parties Conference (APC) on July 7 and holding a “Long March” on July 8. “Security risk is the biggest problem we are facing as certain politico-religious parties have publicly threatened to stop the supplies by force,” Muhammad Akram Khan Durrani, All Pakistan Oil Tankers Owners Association (APOTOA) chairman, told Pakistan Today.
He said since the start of NATO supplies via Pakistan, at least 150 drivers and cleaners had been killed and over 1,600 vehicles had been completely or partly damaged in various attacks. “Those who got disabled in attacks are uncountable and are living a miserable life,” the APOTOA chief said. Calling upon the government to provide transporters with full security, the APOTOA chief demanded that NATO vehicles be given separate colors and logos. “Our main protection can be that all NATO tankers should officially be assigned separate distinguishable colors and logos,” Durrani said. Haji Akhtar Muhammad, executive member of APOTOA, contended that the oil tankers of each company had its own color or logo so why should NATO vehicles be an exemption.
Not much upbeat about the materialization of government’s assurances on the haulers’ safety, APOTOA senior vice chairman Ali Afridi said 2,200 Nato bound vehicles were putting to risk the safety of 38,000 other vehicles transporting inland commercial cargo. “The APOTOA’s Shura would meet shortly to decide future line of action, specially the security issue,” Afridi said. “Security is the major problem we are faced with”. He said there was no insurance for drivers or cleaners of the NATO vehicles. “None of the families of 150 drivers and cleaners killed in attacks received any compensation,” he lamented. Durrani said unemployment in KP was forcing the poor to risk their lives by driving NATO-bound vehicles. “But they should be given insurance or at least their families be compensated if they are killed,” the APOTOA chairman said.
A spokesman for the DPC, however, said the council had no intention to hurt the drivers or cleaners of NATO vehicles in their resistance against the government decision to restore supplies. “We won’t burn vehicles carrying NATO supplies, but will do everything to make the rulers hear our voice,” said Nadeem Ahmed, spokesman for Jamatud Dawa. Instead, he said, the DPC would react democratically by staging sit-ins on NATO routes without hurting “our Pakistani brothers”. He said that in a meeting on Wednesday, the DPC leaders had decided to call APC on July 7 while a Long March would also be taken out on July 8 between Lahore and Islamabad and Karachi and Hyderabad.
The fearful transporters are awaiting a formal government order to start the transportation of over 2,843 containers, 8,658 boxes, 3,326 vehicles, 27 plat-racks and other cargo lying in various yards of the country’s two seaports, Karachi Port and Port Qasim. Of the total, some 1,558 containers are stranded at Pakistan International Container Terminal and Karachi International Container Terminal of Karachi Port, while 1,285 others are stuck at Qasim International Container Terminal of Port Qasim. These supplies, officials said, did not include an unspecified quantity of NATO cargo which was stuck up at yards set up at Superhighway by Agility, a logistics firm dealing with the ISAF cargo bound for Afghanistan.