The take-over of Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan has badly hampered the flow of Punjab-based buyers to the Karkhano market in Peshawar.
This, along with the shortage of goods has hit the once famous market hard, forcing its shopkeepers to abandon their shops and shift elsewhere. Karkhano market is the largest ‘Bara Market’ in the country which is famous for its smuggled goods.
Talking to The Express Tribune a local businessman and chairman of the United Market, Momin Khan said that his market was once the largest electronics market in Karkhano Bazzar but now around 50 per cent shops were empty.
“There are 475 shops in total in the market of which 50 per cent are empty. This means an entire block is now closed. In the past we used to sell second-hand Japanese tv screens smuggled from Afghanistan via Torkham border but after the arrival of Taliban the transportation of goods has also stopped,” he said.
A variety of factors have contributed to the market’s woes. One of them is the fear lurking in the minds of buyers.
“Buyers think that after the arrival of Taliban their visits are not safe anymore,” maintained one of the shopkeepers, saying that in the past weekends were especially considered busy days as on Saturdays and Sundays they received thousands of buyers from Punjab.
This has changed completely as a result shops which were sold previously for Rs14 million are now available at Rs4 million only and even then there are no buyers around.
“There are only local buyers coming who are very picky and are not willing to pay the desired prices. They come here in search of bargains,” he said.
Another shopkeeper Muhammad Haseeb said that there was a time when buyers reached the market ahead of them each morning as his market was famous for used laptops.
“In the past when Torkham border was open the transportation charges of goods were as low as Rs1,300 per pack. These days we pay Rs13,000 as goods are transported from Quetta and Chaman,” he said, adding that when these laptops reach Peshawar they could no longer be called cheap.
“Look at the purchasing power of the people in the country. Those people who buy used laptops are not doing it for fun. Affordability is the watchword here. If my product is not affordable it is not attractive,” he explained.
There are businessmen who think that the good old days are gone. They have closed their shops and moved away.
“Sittara Market in Karkhano was known for NATO goods stolen from US supply containers. Once we opened a lot and found brand new Swiss Breitling watches inside. These watches were sold for Rs6,000 a piece as it was the price of a Seiko watch,” said another shopkeeper Sher Alam, adding that after a few years the US army stopped shipping such fancy items in containers.
“Still there were very good items coming to the market but in 2014 its flow was badly hampered and these days only Chinese goods are sold with NATO label,” he said, adding that with the US withdrawal it is not possible to sell things with this label too.
A small number of shopkeepers still think that there will be a revival of the market once the borders are opened and the hue and cry about Taliban dies down with the passage of time.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2021.