KARACHI - Ghulam Hussein kicked off his journey to sell over a hundred animals he had raised at Asia's largest cattle market that is established every year before `Eid al Adha in the outskirts of southern port city of Karachi, two weeks ago.
But when he reached Karachi, the average prices of sacrificial animals got doubled because of heavy but unofficial taxes he paid during his 18-hours long journey from his hometown.
When I crossed the limits of Rahimyar Khan (his home district), our vehicles (carrying animals) were stopped at a check post, and the persons detailed there asked me to pay Rs 4000 (40 dollars) per vehicle as Zila (district) tax, Ghulam Hussein, sitting on a chair near his animals at the cattle market, told OnIslam.net.
The men detailed there pretended to be the government officials, however, neither they explained to me when was that tax imposed nor would they give me any receipt for the tax, Hussein who is now selling the sacrificial animals at double the price, said.
The police were there to provide them (tax collectors) shelter as they must have had their share in that illegal tax collection as well, he added.
This was not the only tax Hussein had paid. His convoy was stopped 10 to 12 times -as soon as he would cross the limits of a district.
At some places I was stopped by so-called district administration staff and robbed me in the name of district tax, at some places, I was looted by excise department officials in the name of excise duty, and at some places, the police bluntly asked me to grease their palms, otherwise, I would not be able to reach Karachi, Hussein added as he narrated his ordeal.
He paid a lump-sum amount of Rs 60,000(600 dollars) as tax on his animals but he had not been given even a single receipt against that.
This was not the end. Another ordeal was awaiting him.
I had thought that it was over. But when I reached the entrance of the market, I was charged with entrance fees. After paying these fees, when I asked my men to unload the animals, the parking officials came to take their share, Hussein said.
When I entertained their demand, some cattle market officials turned up, and informed me that I could not unload animals there unless I buy a space there.
I reminded them that it was a government cattle market where space is free of charge. They laughed loudly, and informed me that they were the government. Ultimately, I had to pay Rs 100,000 (1000 dollars) to them to get a prominent place in the market, he concluded.
Here too, Hussein was not provided with any kind of receipts showing the money had gone to the government.
Paying his way out to the market, Hussein was left with no other choice but to raise the prices of the animals to compensate the hefty taxes.
I know that not even a single rupee has gone into the national exchequer. I have been robbed by police and government officials in broad daylight. Now, I have no choice but to rob the customers to compensate my loss, he maintained.
Not only the ordinary government officials and private gangs are involved in looting the traders, but retired army officials were also able to find their way into the market.
A visit to a cattle market set up in a cantonment area in Karachi by OnIslam.net correspondent found a group retired of army officials harassing and collecting the money from traders who reached there to sell their animals, in the name of administration charges.
They were charging the traders in line with the location of the space. More prominent, more charges.
I have bought this corner against Rs 150,000 (1500 dollars) because it is located at a prominent site, Zahidullah Jalbani, a trader from northeastern Ghotki district told OnIslam.net.
Earlier, Jalbani had fixed the price of an average-weighted goat at Rs 16,000 (160 dollars), but after paying all the taxes, he is now selling the same goat at Rs 26000 (260 dollars).
Similarly, the price of a cow, and a sheep, according to Jalbani, should have been not more than Rs 10,000 (100 dollars) and 30,000 (350 dollars) respectively, but they are being sold from Rs 70,000 (780 dollars) to Rs 100,000 (1000 dollars) and from 18,000 (180 dollars) to Rs 22,000 (220 dollars) respectively.
Adding to the misery of sheep traders, fodder sellers and shopkeepers, who sell commodities, especially cuds and water, at the cattle market have also tripled their prices.
A bottle of drinking water that is available at Rs 25 (25 cent) in the market, is sold at Rs 100 (1 dollar) at the cattle market.
Similarly, a strip of painkillers is sold at Rs 40 (40 cents) as against the actual price of Rs 10 (ten cents).
Nobody is there to stop them from this highway robbery, Jalbani said.
Traders too are compelled to buy these essential commodities from shops located within the cattle market as most of the markets are located in the suburbs of the city, and they have to pay for transport if they go to the city to buy that stuff.
It's very easy to heap the blame for soaring prices on us, Jalbani said in an effort to clear his position.
But, it's actually because of these unofficial taxes we have paid, an apparently helpless Jalbani remarked.
We feel sorry for transferring the brunt of these taxes to the customers but we have no other option.