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Pakistani, Afghan Currencies Collide In Restive Afghan Province

FILE: An Afghan currency exchange dealer waits for customers at a roadside in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar
FILE: An Afghan currency exchange dealer waits for customers at a roadside in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar

TARIN KOT, Afghanistan – Traders in a restive Afghan province are reluctant to abandon using the Pakistani currency even after local authorities have threatened them with possible arrests.

Businesses in Uruzgan, a remote rural province in southern Afghanistan, use the rupee, the Pakistani currency, instead of afghanis because the Taliban insurgents, who control most of the region, oppose the use of the afghani.

Haji Mohammad Qaseem, a grocer in Tarin Kot, Uruzgan’s capital, says that before threatening them the government should establish its authority over the region.

“They first need to look into how much territories they actually control, and only then they should think of enforcing their rules,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan.

The Taliban overran some 90 percent of Uruzgan’s territory soon after most NATO troops left Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The government control is limited to Tarin Kot and other major towns, which are mostly the headquarters of the districts in which they are located.

“Everywhere in Uruzgan business is conducted in kaldars, because all the drug traffickers and traders use this currency,” he said while referring to the rupee by its local name. “In addition, they [the Taliban] have their local mayors and representatives everywhere [who oppose the use of afghanis].”

Uruzgan traders say that using the afghani in the Taliban-controlled region can invoke reprisals including detentions, beatings, and even killings.

“I support the government’s stance about urging us to use afghanis, but it does not even control the outskirts of this city,” Samiullah, another shopkeeper, noted. “If someone is harmed or threatened because of using the Afghan currency, who will be held responsible?”

Gul Mohammad, a vegetable vendor, says they do not have enough afghani bank notes in the region to rely exclusively on its use.

“We will use afghani currency notes of major and minor denominations to use it successfully,” he told an August 1 gathering that Uruzgan’s authorities had called to urge traders to switch to the national currency.

But Uruzgan Governor Shafiq Asadullah Saeed is adamant that an appeal to the patriotism of fellow Afghans and threats of possible arrests can spur the use of afghanis.

“We are Afghans. We are not Pakistanis. This is why we must use our national currency, the afghani,” he told traders. “Listen to me carefully, we are going to gradually impose the use of our currency, and we might make arrests. So, if you do not begin using it, you will have no good answers for us.”

The use of the rupee, however, is not limited to Uruzgan. It is used in several eastern and southern Afghan provinces bordering Pakistan. Currently, one dollar is traded for 78 afghanis while it is exchanged for 160 Pakistani rupees.

Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on Sharifullah Sharafat’s reporting from Tarin Kot, Uruzgan.