Despite hectic efforts at the diplomatic level by Pakistan, a rice exporter is still behind the bars for over 50 days on charges of hoarding of rice imported into Iran. A Pakistani rice merchant, Haji Abdul Bahadur and one of his relatives, namely Raz Muhammad, who were arrested by Iranian authorities in the first week of November 2012, were yet to get bail from Iranian court.
This incident and the devaluation of Iranian currency against dollar have practically halted Pakistani export of rice to the neighbouring country which was considered a lucrative market for Pakistani rice, Hamidullah Khan, a Quetta-based exporter told Business Recorder.
According to Hamid, the accused Pakistani exporter has hired a lawyer in Mashhad to contest his case in Iranian court as diplomatic efforts have not been fruitful. “Things are expected to be clear in a week,” he added. Talking about the export of rice to the neighbouring country, he said that exporters here, were scared about trading with Iranian importers/buyers after this incident. The bilateral trade prospects in rice have already been narrowed down after the devaluation of the Iranian currency and issues related to payment of exported goods.
Sources claimed that there must be other reasons behind the sentence of the exporter. They doubted that cases like smuggling and fake documentation would have been registered against the exporter. “We know the one-sided story as no official response from the concerned authority of Iranian government has been received by Pakistan or Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (Reap) here so far,” they said.
Talking to Business Recorder, Jawed Ali Ghauri, Chairman Reap said exporters and members of the association were concerned about the case as neither Iranian government nor authorities concerned were responding clearly to the issue. Despite labour of months and repeated letters sent by Reap, the exporter was still in jail of Mashhad. “Though we have arranged lawyer to contest the case, the governments on both sides were not helping us to resolve the issue,” he said.
Through a letter sent to Chairman Trade Development Authority Pareb Tehran on November 14, Qazi Habib-ur-Rehman, Consul General of Pakistan in Mashhad had informed that Pakistani rice merchant Abdul Bahadur and one of his relatives, Raz Muhammad, have been arrested by Iranian authorities for hoarding rice imported into Iran. Referring to a letter sent by Reap on November 8, he said in the letter that the consulate was pursuing the matter with the Iranian authorities through the Department of Foreign Affairs” representation in Mashhad.
The Consulate of Pakistan in Mashhad while referring to another letter sent on November 10, has informed that the consulate which presents its compliments to the Department of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Islamic Republic of Iran in North and East of the country and has the honour to state that the Reap has informed this Consulate that; ” One of their member M/s M K Rice Processing Mills, Kamoke-Pakistan has established warehouses for sale of rice at Mashhad Ambar-e-Ajalean, Ambar-e-Hussanian, Ambar-e-Shah Savand and Ambar-e-Iranian with huge investment in Iran. Their contact person in Mashhad is Abdul Bahadur Passport No BE 1075282, Khayaban e Abkoh I, Block 1, Mashhad. Recently Iranian officials have been harassing the staff of the M K Rice Processing Mills asking them to close their rice business or sell the rice cheaper, as per the price fixed by Iranian Government. The passport of Abdul Bahadur has been taken away by the authorities.”
The letter further said that “due to the international sanctions imposed on Iran, the Iranian currency has been devalued considerably and their member is not in a position to sell out his merchandise at a loss, according to the Iran government price. Reap has requested the Consulate to intercede with the authorities for resolving the issue and save the Reap member from heavy financial losses.