Karachi: Pakistani officials have been asked to inspect all the containers carrying NATO supplies to Afghanistan to ensure it didn't carry any weapons or military ware, authorities said on Friday. Pakistan customs officials said they had got specific instructions to inspect each and every container bound for NATO troops in Afghanistan landing at the Karachi port.

Officials said they were keeping a close watch on the shipments. The first trucks crossed into Afghanistan on Thursday after Pakistan lifted a seven-month blockade on NATO supplies through its territory.

"We have been told to ensure the containers do not carry weapons, ammunition or other lethal supplies," a spokesman for Pakistan Customs said.

The customs officials said they were carrying out 24-hour round the clock checking of all containers held up at the Karachi Port Trust since the last seven months.

Spokesman Qamar Talho said the government had given instructions that customs can seize any item or anything that is not listed in the agreements between Pakistan and Afghanistan and Pakistan and NATO.

Talho said there were hundreds of containers in Karachi waiting for clearance to be sent to Afghanistan. "We used to scan the containers randomly in the past but now every container will be scanned thoroughly," he said.

"A strict scanning of the cargo is just one important measure not to give enough space to the opposition to exploit public sentiments," the official said.

Up to 1,500 trucks have been stranded in Karachi during the blockade, unable to unload and find other work.

An official of the All Pakistan Goods Carrier Association said 560,000 rupees (USD 6,000) compensation per vehicle would be paid to the truck owners by NATO subcontractors.

"For the truckers the reopening of the NATO supplies is good news and means livelihood but we have requested the government to provide us proper security throughout the land routes in Pakistan," the official said.

The Pakistan government's decision to lift the blockade on NATO supplies through Pakistan has met with stiff resistance from several religious parties.

Pakistan has made it clear to the US that the supplies will not include weapons or other lethal items. Pakistan's interior ministry advisor Rehman Malik said in Islamabad that Pakistan Rangers, Frontier Constabulary and Police would provide security to the NATO containers in the provinces they pass through.

In the past, militants and miscreants have set on fire hundreds of NATO containers carrying fuel in the Sindh and Baluchistan provinces and also in the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province.

The land routes into Afghanistan are vital as the US and NATO withdraw troops and equipment from the war-torn country.


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