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Pakistan's black marketers cheer reopening of NATO supply lines

When Pakistan closed NATO supply routes in November, arms smugglers lost access to one of the easiest sources of materiel.

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“Pakistan is one of a very few countries where government actually facilitates black economy through laws, which has brought the country’s tax to GDP ratio lowest in the world,” says Dr. Siddiqui. 

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According to intelligence sources, almost 70 percent to 75 percent of US-made weapons in Pakistan make their way into the black market through Afghan smugglers who buy these weapons from Afghan soldiers and policemen. The remaining 25 percent of illegal items are sold by different local militant groups who also use the NATO supply routes to transport them.

Coordinated attacks on NATO convoys within Pakistan by militant groups feed the black markets.

Close nexus?

Security analysts believe that in many cases militants and crew members of NATO containers have a close nexus.

“Militants, in many cases, get away with military-related equipment before burning the containers, and leave non-military related commodities, like food stuff, soft drinks, mineral-water bottles, office equipment, spare parts of vehicles, boots, jackets, cigarettes, etc., for the crew members, who later sell them in the black market,” says Ikram Sehgal, a Karachi-based security analyst.

Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau, on the directives of the Supreme Court, recently initiated a probe to investigate how during the past five years hundreds of NATO containers, which began their journey from Karachi Port, never reached their destination.

And even supplies that do make it to their destination in Afghanistan are not immune. Mr. Sehgal says a good number of weapons are stolen from Afghan Army depots, where the Afghan National Army looks the other way.

These are then shipped to Pakistan where they can be sold and purchased easily.

Darra Adamkhel, commonly known as “Pakistan’s arms bazaar” and located 20 miles south of Peshawar, attracts lovers of US-made weapons, where not only the original weapons, but their replicas prepared in local nonconventional arms factories, are available.

A walk in the market

Walking in the dust-bowed streets of Sohrab Ghot, a shanty town located in Karachi’s northern suburb, and dominated by Pashtuns and Afghan refugees, Pepsi or Coke is sold by the case for 15 cents per can. In a legal market, the soft drink can’t be found for less than 50 cents.

Everything from American shoes to American cigarettes to water are easily available at the famous Light House market of southern Karachi, despite the fact that most of the shop owners there do not have the proper import licenses required to prove that such foreign goods sold here are legal.

“You don’t have to place an order to a US company,” Sehgal says. “Everything is available here.”

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