Along Pak-Afghan border, a quiet trade war is making Eid sacrifice unaffordable

A wide view of local cattle market in Peshawar on August 7, 2019 where sacrificial animals are on sale. Prices of sacrificial animals remain unaffordable in northwestern part of Pakistan with the dealers blaming surge in cattle prices due to ban on their import from Afghanistan through Pak-Afghan Torkham border. (AN photo)
Updated 09 August 2019

Along Pak-Afghan border, a quiet trade war is making Eid sacrifice unaffordable

  • After Pakistan’s crackdown on cattle trafficking into Afghanistan, Kabul has restricted the supply of its own animals
  • Pakistan sacrifices more than 10 million animals, worth over $3 billion, during the two days of Eid ul-Adha, authorities say

PESHAWAR: With Eid al-Adha approaching on August 12, prices of sacrificial animals in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have soared, with sellers blaming a sharp fall in supply from Afghanistan soon after Pakistan banned the import of small animals from the country.
Pakistan is taking measures to check cattle trafficking to Afghanistan from its northwestern tribal areas ahead of Eid-al-Adha following an order by the Peshawar High Court (PHC) to end the menace which has seen a sharp surge in the prices of animals in local markets in previous years. 
For the Muslim majority country of 208 million people, there is a booming pre-holiday trade in goats, cows, and sheep. In Pakistan alone, more than 10 million animals, worth over $3 billion, are slaughtered during the two days of Eid ul-Adha, according to the Pakistan Tanners’ Association.
But for a huge number of poor communities in KP, purchasing a goat or sheep will be an unaffordable luxury this year. 




A goat is on sell at Rs. 40,000 at a local cattle market in Peshawar on August 7, 2019.  Prices of sacrificial animals remain unaffordable in the northwestern part of Pakistan with the dealers blaming surge in cattle prices due to ban on their import from Afghanistan through Pak-Afghan Torkham border. (AN photo)

“Last Eid, I bought an average goat at the rate of Rs. 25,000 ($156) but the same is being sold at the cattle market this year at Rs. 35,000 ($218), which is unaffordable for me,” Naeem Jan, a roadside stall vendor in Peshawar, told Arab News. 
Zarqeeb Shinwari, President Pakistani Traders Association at the Pak-Afghan Torkham border, told Arab News that after the PHC ban, Afghanistan seemed to have declared an unofficial tit-for-tat bar on its own trade of small animals to Pakistan, such as sheep and goats, resulting in an unprecedented hike in their prices. 
“We demand both the governments to lift the ban on the export and import of animals because livestock is not something coming under trade items,” Shinwari said. 
He added that things had not been smooth sailing for traders at the Pak-Afghan Torkham border before the restriction either, as officials from different departments created problems for businessmen, demanding documents like quarantine licenses for the import of cattle which most usually didn’t have.
But Muhammad Imran, assistant commissioner Khyber tribal district, told Arab News that local administration was holding price review meetings every month to ensure hoarders didn’t create problems for common people.




The demand for this pair of goat is Rs. 70,000 at a local cattle market in Peshawar on August 7, 2019. Prices of sacrificial animals remain unaffordable in northwestern part of Pakistan with the dealers blaming surge in cattle prices due to ban on their import from Afghanistan through Pak-Afghan Torkham border. (AN photo)

“We don’t have any complaints regarding a hike in animals prices but we will chalk out a strategy to deal with the issue effectively if we do receive any complaint,” he said. 
According to ballpark prices in the cattle market, the price of a bull weighing 150 kg ranges between Rs. 120,000 ($750) to 140,000 ($876), a goat weighing 20 kg costs up to Rs. 25,000 ($156), a sheep weighing 25 kg costs between Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 30,000 ($188) and the average price of a camel weighing 200 kg is roughly around Rs. 200,000 ($1,250).
On the Afghanistan side, traders say prices have remained unchanged.




This bull costs Rs. 150,000 at a cattle market in Peshawar on August 7, 2019.  Prices of sacrificial animals remain unaffordable in northwestern part of Pakistan with the dealers blaming surge in cattle prices due to ban on their import from Afghanistan through Pak-Afghan Torkham border. (AN photo)

Kiftan Bacha, an Afghan trader at the Torkham border, said prices of sacrificial animals had not changed because small cattle was not being exported to Pakistan and there was no deficiency of bulls and buffaloes inside Afghanistan. He agreed, however, that an unannounced ban from the Afghan side was in effect.
“Though there is no official ban on the export of small livestock to Pakistan, I think Afghan traders have imposed an unstructured ban as a tit-for-tat to Pakistan’s move banning the export of animals to our country,” Bacha said. 
Arafat Khan, a Pakistani custom clearance agent who works along the Torkham border, told Arab News last month that even though illegal trafficking through known points such as Torkham, Ghulam Khan in North Waziristan and Angoor Adda in South Waziristan tribal districts had reduced significantly, hundreds of buffaloes and cows were still being smuggled to the neighboring country through unknown routes.




The demand for this goat is Rs. 45,000 at a cattle market in Peshawar on August 7, 2019. Prices of sacrificial animals remain unaffordable in northwestern part of Pakistan with the dealers blaming surge in cattle prices due to ban on their import from Afghanistan through Pak-Afghan Torkham border. (AN photo)

Kamran Ali, a local in Peshawar City, said that prices of bulls, sheep and goats have surged by up to Rs. 15,000 ($93) as compared to last year.
“Prices of livestock experienced a surge because of unchecked smuggling of cattle to neighboring Afghanistan on unfrequented routes,” Ali said. 
Azhar Shinwari, another custom clearing agent at the Torkham border told Arab News the poor were being badly affected by the trading restrictions across the border.
“If the situation remains unchanged such as export of livestock not allowed from Afghanistan, I fear many of our people will not be able to perform the tradition this Eid,” he said. “Many people have told me, this year they will buy meat from a butcher shop instead.”




The demand for this pair of goats is Rs. 70,000 ($438) at a cattle market in Peshawar on August 7, 2019. Prices of sacrificial animals remain unaffordable for many in northwestern Pakistan with dealers blaming a surge in prices on an unofficial ban on their import along the Pak-Afghan Torkham border. (AN photo)

Eid ul-Adha commemorates the Qur’anic story of the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to Allah before Allah replaced the son with a ram to be sacrificed instead.


'No food left in the sea': Pakistani fishermen fearful as Chinese trawlers dock at Karachi port 

Updated 19 October 2020

'No food left in the sea': Pakistani fishermen fearful as Chinese trawlers dock at Karachi port 

  • Fisherfolk forum says government plan to allow Chinese to carry out deep-sea fishing in territorial waters could render millions jobless 
  • Federal government says bottom trawling will not be allowed under new fishing policy

KARACHI: A pressure group that represents Pakistani fishermen has said a government plan to allow Chinese companies to carry out deep-sea fishing in the country’s territorial waters could threaten the survival of at least three million people who depend on the sea for livelihood.
Last month, 12 Chinese deep-sea trawlers docked at the port of Karachi, unleashing fear among local fishermen who say commercial fishing vessels and bottom-trawling would deplete fish stocks in the exclusive federal sea zones off the Sindh and Balochistan provinces. 
Bottom trawling - dragging nets across the sea floor to scoop up fish - stirs up the sediment lying on the seabed, displaces or harms some marine species, causes pollutants to mix into plankton and move into the food chain and creates harmful algae blooms or oxygen-deficient dead zones.
The coastal line of Sindh and Balochistan is 1,050 km long, Mohammad Ali Shah, Chairman Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, told Arab News last week, saying around three million fishermen relied on the sea to survive. 
A new fishing policy is expected but yet to be revealed by the government, he said. 
“The deep-sea trawler policy has not yet been approved but before that they [China] have brought these trawlers,” Shah said, calling the arrival of the Chinese vessels at Karachi port last month ‘illegal.’ 

In this undated photo, fishing vessels of Fujian Fishery Company move from the Gwadar port towards Karachi, Pakistan (Photo courtesy: Fishermen Cooperatives Society)

In 2018, the government enacted a deep-sea fishing licensing policy that both fishermen's representative bodies and provincial government bodies opposed, calling it a constitutional violation and an encroachment on the livelihoods of fishermen in the coastal provinces.
Fears about foreign fishing companies eating up local communities are not new.
For years, fishermen in the southwestern city of Gwadar in Balochistan province - a flagship of the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor - have protested against foreign trawlers. 
Tensions first began to mount when the Fisheries Department disclosed its plan to issue licenses to various foreign fishing vessels to operate in an exclusive economic zone in 2016.
But last week, the federal minister for maritime affairs, Ali Haider Zaidi, told Arab News the country’s new deep-sea fishing policy would not allow Chinese trawlers to engage in unregulated deep-sea fishing. Bottom trawling, he said, would be banned under the new policy.
“Importing boats is not illegal,” he said. “How you use them has to be regulated.”
Pakistan divides its sea into three zones, where zone-3 (from 20 to 200 nautical miles) is controlled by the federal government. Up to 12 nautical miles (zone-1) is the domain of the provinces Sindh and Balochistan and between 12 to 20 nautical miles the sea is declared a buffer zone. 

Fishermen remove fish from a net at the Clifton beach in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on Oct. 6, 2020. (AFP/File)

Local fishermen are not allowed to fish in zone-3 and foreign fishing vessels are not permitted to fish in the other two zones under the existing policy.
The Fishermen's Cooperative Society (FCS), which issued the permit to the Chinese trawlers, said the Chinese fishing vessels would not use the destructive bottom trawling method and instead help ‘upgrade’ Pakistan’s fishing industry and export.
Official figures put the annual value of Pakistan’s fish exports at roughly $450 million.
“Bringing Chinese trawlers for deep sea fishing is in line with the government’s deep-sea fishing policy and aimed at upgrading and modernizing fishing, besides providing job opportunities to local fishermen,” Abdul Berr, Chairman of the Fishermen's Cooperative Society, told Arab News.
“Around 3,500 fishermen will get employment opportunities with the arrival of the world’s latest fishing boats and modern small boats,” Berr said. 
He added: “First, 70 percent of the staff at trawlers and processing facilities will be local. There will be no fishing in provincial territorial waters. The trawlers will bring all their catch to Karachi where it will be processed in factories and then exported.”
Small local fishermen would receive modern fiber boats on ‘easy instalments,’ Berr said, a step towards replacing their obsolete boats.
But Sindh’s minister for livestock and fisheries, Abdul Bari Pitafi, said the mega fishing ships would wipe out sea-life, even if they were only operating in the federal government’s zone-3.
“We will...also oppose its [trawlers’] operations in zone-3 because they will just wipe out sea-life including the fish’s seed,” Pitafi told Arab News.
In 2016, a survey carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organisation revealed that more than 72 percent of the fish stock in Pakistan’s coastal areas had already declined.
“One trawler does a catch that is equal to a catch by 100 of our fishing boats,” Younus Khaskheli, a fisherman, said. “And their fishing net is the most dangerous one, because it hunts thousands of tons of fish.” 
Tens of thousands of fishing boats are registered in Pakistan, he said, with fishermen from Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even Bangladesh fishing in these waters.
“Our sea stock will end; the country will lose the income of billions and our fishermen will become jobless,” Khaskheli said. “There won’t be any food left in the sea.”