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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.