KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan traders shut up their shops in the country's capital on Monday and marched through the streets to protest tax hikes. Elsewhere in Afghanistan, roadside bombing targeting police killed at least 10 people.
The march in Kabul was a rare public protest against the policies of the new government of President Ashraf Ghani. Hundreds of businessmen, shop owners and traders denounced what they say are unfair tax rises imposed in recent months.
Some said the rise in taxes has been about 600 percent, though there are no official statistics. Finance Ministry spokesman Abdul Qadir Jalani defended the hikes and told The Associated Press that the "taxes are fair, based on the law and are applied to everyone equally."
Economic growth in Afghanistan has plunged to around zero percent from double digits just three years ago, something analysts say is mainly due to the pullout of most foreign troops and non-government organizations.
Seven months after taking office, Ghani has yet to complete his Cabinet, which limits his ability to introduce policies that would kick-start the economy and create jobs.
One of the protesters, computer distributer Massoud, who like many Afghans uses only one name, said his tax bill has doubled yet sales remain static "because of the security situation"
"I am being penalized because the government is doing nothing about security," Massoud said.
"Business is zero but there is no security and no Cabinet," said another protester, Haji Azizi, a member of Kabul's Gold Sellers' Association. He added he "would be happy to pay" an increase in taxes of 10 percent — but not 200 percent.
Meanwhile, authorities said 10 people died in two roadside bombings that targeted Afghan policemen. One of the explosions killed four police officers and two civilians north of Kabul, said Abdul Sami Sharifi, an administrative chief of Kabul's Qarabagh district.
In northern Baghlan province, police said a second roadside bomb killed four police officers. Two other police officers were wounded in the attack, which occurred in the province's Baghlani Murkazi district.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombings. The Taliban often use roadside bombs in their campaign against the U.S.-backed government.