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Helmand Drivers Protest Police Extortion

Officers are demanding money for safe passage on the province’s roads.
This is the voice of a policeman demanding money from a driver in Helmand. It’s a common experience for people like Nazaruddin, who has been driving a truck between Lashkar Gah and Kabul for three years.

“I’ve been beaten up on this road when I’ve had no money to give to the police. They beat other drivers, too,” he says.

Jamal is a taxi driver who regularly travels between Lashkar Gah and the Greshk district. He says there are many checkpoints along the way where officers extort money.

“Police do well on the road to Greshk district. First they take money and then they send us on a longer route. There are many other checkpoints along the way, and each one takes 20 afghanis,” he says. There’s no profit left for us.”

Last month, about 60 drivers took their complaints directly to the provincial governor. They gathered in front of his office demanding he crack down on corrupt police.

Naseem drives a truck between Lashkar Gah and Spin Boldak, on the Pakistani border, and says he’s fed up with the situation.

“I don’t want to drive on Afghanistan’s roads any more. Neither the containers nor the drivers are safe. We are ready to move 20,000 more containers from Pakistan, but we want security,” he says.

Helmand police chief Hossain Andiwal admits that security is a problem. But he says he’s taking action.

“Some people wearing police uniforms were just thieves. They were a big group - 53 people. They’ve been arrested and are currently in prison, and this will continue in the future, too,” he says.

Helmand’s governor, Asadullah Wafa, said he has instructed the authorities to protect drivers.

“The drivers can choose any route they want and police have ensured their security,” he says.

Drivers say they hope the authorities can fulfill their promises.

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