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Pakistani truckers for NATO on strike

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Truckers who supply NATO troops in Afghanistan went on strike in northwest Pakistan to protest lower pay, inadequate security, and corrupt officials who demand bribes, officials said Wednesday.

The supply route is an important lifeline for international forces in landlocked Afghanistan. The coalition ships a significant portion of its nonlethal supplies through Pakistan into southern Afghanistan. The other land route into Afghanistan through Central Asia and Russia is longer and more expensive.

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The strike began in response to the government’s decision to require truckers to go through authorized companies to carry NATO supplies instead of making individual deals with the government-run National Logistics Cell, said ­Jehanzeb Khan, head of a transport workers union in northwest Pakistan.

He said the government was not providing adequate protection from Taliban attacks, and each truck had to pay corrupt security officials about $165 in bribes to pass through the Khyber area.

Khan said truckers in northwest Pakistan stopped carrying NATO supplies Wednesday, and he was reaching out to others throughout the country to get them to join the strike.

Haneef Khan Marwat, head of a transportation company in the southern city of Karachi, said some truckers began their strike as early as Jan. 4 and thousands are involved. He said the strike would continue until the government reversed its new policy.

No trucks carrying NATO supplies crossed the northwest Torkham border on Wednesday, said Tahir Khan, a political official.

Torkham is one of two crossings used to ship NATO supplies to Afghanistan. Goods continued to move through the other crossing, Chaman, in southwest Pakistan.

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