LANDIKOTAL: The transporters and owners of heavy vehicles in Khyber tribal district on Sunday resumed protest against establishment of toll plaza on the Pak-Afghan Highway.

The protesting transporters blocked Pak-Afghan Highway for all kinds of traffic due to which the trade activities between Pakistan and Afghan came to a halt. Long queues of stranded vehicles were witnessed on the highway as the transporters resumed protest.

On Saturday, the transporters of heavy vehicles and their owners blocked the highway against establishment of toll plaza by the National Highways Authority (NHA). The toll plaza was set up by the NHA in December. However, the local transporters and other people had lodged protest against the establishment of the toll plaza. After massive protests, the local transporters were exempted from tax, but now the NHA contractors have again started collecting tax from the transporters.

The transporters are of the view that collection of toll tax is illegal as the government had promised at the time of merger of tribal districts with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that the merged districts will be exempted from taxes for the next five years. They said KP Governor Shah Farman had also assured the transporters that they will be exempted from toll tax and other taxes.

The protesters on the Pak-Afghan Highway kept it blocked for six hours on Saturday after which the district administration officials held talks with the protesting transporters and assured that their grievances will be conveyed to concerned quarters. The transporters agreed to end protest on condition that their grievances must be addressed within 24 hours. The transporters made it clear that they will resume their agitation today (Sunday) if their grievances were not addressed.

However, the transporters resumed protest, saying that the truck drivers are not left on the toll plaza without payment of toll tax. They said they will never pay toll tax, adding that the government should fulfil its pledge regarding exemption of tribal districts from all taxes. They said the government instead of providing jobs to the tribal youth are teasing the employed youth. They said their protest will continue till they are not exempted completely from taxes.

On the other hand, the NHA contractors are of the view that they have received orders to collect toll tax from higher authorities. They said they have been directed to collect toll tax from heavy vehicles only and small vehicles are exempted from tax. They said the money collected from toll tax is being spent on the maintenance of the road.

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