ISLAMABAD - While the US is reportedly paying around six times more through alternative routes after Pakistan's decision to close border crossing to NATO/Isaf convoys, Islamabad is planning to grab this opportunity and levy special toll tax for NATO/ISAF trucks in case the routes are reopened.
Pakistan is planning to levy special toll tax for NATO/ISAF trucks that have been causing annually around $83 million loss to national exchequer by damaging the national highway network due to heavy load for the last one decade, as in these regards recommendations have been given to the concerned authorities if the routes are reopened, TheNation learnt reliably. Pakistan shut down its two key border crossings after a US air strike claimed the lives of two-dozen Pakistani soldiers on 26 November 2011 on Salala Check Post.
Interestingly, now the US is reportedly costing around $104 million per month to send the supplies through a longer northern route that is $87million more per month. While, it has not been paying a single penny to Pakistan under this head for around last one decade - whereas it is bearing a loss of around $83million just because of heavy load of Nato/Isaf trucks.
When contacted, Secretary Ministry of communication Anwar Ahmad Khan said that no one should be exempted to pay toll tax as in this regard recommendation have been given to concerned authorities. "Whosoever is using our roads, tax should be imposed on them," he said, adding that the recovered money could be used for 'wear and tear' of Pakistan's national highways. Minister for Communication Dr Arbab Alamgir had also reportedly admitted that the idea to introduce toll tax only for NATO trucks, saying these heavy loaded trucks are damaging the road network badly.
Meanwhile, sources in communication ministry confided that the idea to impose toll on these (Nato/Isaf) freight truck at Chaman and Torkhan was already in pipeline but now availing the opportunity Pakistan might devour to levy special toll tax if the suspended routes were reopened.
According to the documents available to TheNation, the country's road network has been under tremendous strain due to overloading of Nato/Isaf and American transit freight to Afghanistan since 2002.
The document actually designed for 'Friends of Pakistan' further revealed the weighted average damage caused by NATO/ISAF freight on main routes leading to Afghanistan is 19 per cent of total expenditure spent on repair and maintenance of road and infrastructure, according to the documents. While, National Highway Authority (NHA) has been expending at an average US 142 million dollars per annum on up-gradation of all national highways.
The study carried out for such purpose revealed that due to rapid increase of transit traffic to Afghanistan by these trucks the intensity has increased on three strategic Pakistan National Highways including (N-5) Karachi-Lahore-Peshawar-Torkham (1819kilometer), (N-55) Heyderabad-Larkana-Kohat-Peshawar (1264 KM), and (N-25) Karachi-Quetta-Chaman (813 Km).
The independent road experts also viewed Pakistan could not meet international standards due to constrained economy as against the increased maintenance requirements of three main national highway networks since the year 2002 (onset of Afghan War). As, pavements in Pakistan are generally designed for a service life of 10 years.
The available study revealed despite the paucity of funds Pakistan has to pay an average US 205million dollar per annum on National Highways and Motorway Police (NHMP) in order ensure security of road users.
It further says that the national network level these highways totaling approximately 4000 kilometers constitute a spine to Pakistan's economy catering more than 80 per cent of the total commercial and freight. It was also learnt that the maintenance cycle of Pakistani road is premature which result in huge backlog of maintenance operations.
It is relevant to mention here Pakistan has slightly claimed for repair and maintenance of road network under this head, a couple of month before, but no heed was paid on it.
While, the criterion set for trucks or heavy vehicles is that those with extra load above the recommended standards are not allowed and violators are fined by the National Highway Authority (NHA) but in case of NATO these rules are not simply applied. NHA has set its measuring standard 17.5 tons for 2Excel Bedford while 2Excel Single Hino can carry 17.5 tons. Overloading fines starts from Rs1,000 to Rs 5,000 in each case with one-month imprisonment, said sources.