Bara Trade Union president Sher Afzal talking to TNN correspondent.

By Saleemur Rehman Afridi

BARA, 13 December: Over 10,000 shops in Bara Bazaar of Khyber Agency were closed during military operation against militants which have not been opened as yet.

The political administration has initiated efforts for re-opening of the bazaar and besides opening the roads, it has also announced construction of a sports stadium in the area. TNN correspondent has conducted a detailed discussion with Bara Trade Union president Sher Afzal regarding difficulties faced by the shop owners in reopening of the bazaar.

TNN: The government has initiated efforts for reopening of Bara Bazaar. Did you receive any assistance from the government for this purpose?

Sher Afzal: Many promises were made with us from various quarters. We were supposed to get assistance under the SMEDA programme but got nothing. The political agent in a meeting had assured the trade union to extend all kind of assistance for restoration of the bazaar including financial assistance and interest-free loans. We were also told that talks with donors were underway and we may get assistance soon but that did not happen.

TNN: There were reports that SMEDA was launching a programme for assisting the traders of Bara Bazaar. Did you get any benefit from that programme?

Sher Afzal: Nothing has happened on ground. They may have signed agreement with someone in this regard but we have no documentary evidence of any such agreement.

TNN: How many shops have been affected due to military operation in Bara Bazaar?

Sher Afzal: There were about 10,000 shops registered with us. The owners of that shops used to pay Zakat of lakhs of rupees before the operation but now they are leading very miserable life and need Zakat from others to make ends meet. About 25,000 people were working in these shops.

TNN: Is trade possible in the Bara Bazaar shops in the current condition?

Sher Afzal: The whole world knows that the bazaar has been damaged badly in the operation. Every shops needs repair which will require at least Rs70,000. This will not become possible without the government help.

TNN: The government is planning to reopen Bara Bazaar under a new design. How do you see this development?

Sher Afzal: The roads have been opened which is a very encouraging sign. If the government fulfils its promises like establishment of playground and other facilities then the traders will certainly welcome these steps.

TNN: Do the shop owners of Bara have sufficient resources to resurrect their businesses at the bazaar?

Sher Afzal: It will not become possible without government help. We demand the government to provide interest-free loans to traders. Each shopkeeper should get at least Rs1 million and all the taxes should be withdrawn. The reopening of Bara Bazaar will be impossible without a special package by the government.

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