Taliban raise coal prices, pushing Pakistan to the brink of an energy crisis
Afghanistan increased tariffs and imposed customs duties. Both countries lack foreign currency. Blackouts are becoming a regular feature in Pakistan, which recent floods made worse. Economic tensions are exacerbating pre-existing tensions.
Peshawar (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Taliban have raised coal prices creating problems for neighbouring Pakistan which, lacking foreign currency, wanted to buy coal at low prices and in its own currency in an attempt to ease its ongoing energy crisis.
As the country was drifting towards a Sri Lanka style economic crisis, Pakistani authorities had announced plans to import coal from Afghanistan paying in Pakistani rupees rather than dollars.
For some time, blackouts have become a recurring problem in Pakistan, which recent floods aggravated.
The situation on the other side of the border is not much better. Strapped for cash because of international sanctions, the Taliban more than doubled the price of coal and imposed customs duties.
Pakistan imports 70 per cent of its coal from South Africa, where prices have reached an all-time high due to the war in Ukraine and domestic unrest.
In March, the price of coal reached US$ 425 per tonne. Since then, they have declined but the market remains unpredictable, which is why at the end of June Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif approved the import of Afghan coal.
According to government sources, this would have saved Pakistan US$ 2.2 billion in import costs annually. Then came the Taliban who imposed a 30 per cent tariff and raised the price of coal from US$ 90 to US$ 200 dollars per tonne.
"The price of coal per ton in the global market is around 0 and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will exploit its coal reserves by selling it at international rates, imposing duties on export of coal abroad," said Mufti Esmatullah Burhan, a spokesperson for Afghanistan's Ministry of Petroleum and Minerals, speaking to Nikkei Asia.
The Pakistani government has not yet reacted to the Taliban's decision, but in an interview with The News, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said that his country is interested in importing coal from Afghanistan only if it is at affordable prices.
The dispute over coal is accentuating pre-existing tensions between the two countries.
The Taliban have not complied with Islamabad’s demand that they stop giving sanctuary to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (the Pakistani Taliban) in Afghanistan.
The security forces of both countries have also repeatedly clashed on the border, also known as the Durand Line. To secure it, Pakistan has set out to build a fence which Afghanistan is trying to stop.