Several recent fires in Afghanistan’s customs departments in the western part of the country have caused the private sector heavy losses, and the Afghanistan Chambers Federation (ACF) is concerned over the root causes of the incident.
The chamber says the customs clearance process has been affected, and there is the possibility that deliberate acts of arson were the cause of the fires.
“If the government does not prevent such events, it may happen again, we fear ... if such incidents occur at Aqeena and Hairatan trade ports, there are hundreds of thousands of tons of fuel in storage,” said Khan Jan Alokozai, deputy head of ACF.
Former officials in the Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) link the incidents to corruption and say these fires were started in an attempt to destroy documents that could be used as evidence.
“When the government takes measures to fight corruption or intends to apply reforms to customs departments, such incidents happen,” said Maiwand Ruhani, former director of the MEC.
Mohammad Rafi Taabeh, a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance, says the recent fire in Farah province was not in the customs department of the province. “The fire occurred at the traders’ fuel storage and no damage was reported by the customs department.”
The massive fire at the Islam Qala customs department resulted in a significant increase in the prices of fuel in the country--a 10 Afs increase in every liter of petrol and diesel--and the prices remain high in the market.
Some experts say the fires were set to disrupt the supply of goods in the economy.
“These incidents create doubts. Have they happened to increase prices and to get more benefits or is there a collaboration between traders to increase prices?” said Sayed Masoud, an economics expert.
The fire that broke out in the fuel storage area at the border town of Abu Nasr-e-Farahi on Saturday in Farah province was the third major fire in a month in Afghanistan--after the Islam Qala and Farah customs fires.
The government of Afghanistan and the Ministry of Finance have yet to report information about the suspected cause of each incident.