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Thursday June 20, 2024

PM forms panel to mull barter trade from 13 Balochistan border districts

High-powered committee is expected to present a detailed report to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif

By Mehtab Haider
May 30, 2024
Drivers along with a boy drink tea next to trucks parked along a road near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Torkham. — AFP/File
Drivers along with a boy drink tea next to trucks parked along a road near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Torkham. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif-led government has constituted a high-powered committee to consider a special package for 13 border districts of Balochistan near Afghanistan and Iran whereby traders have proposed to legalise the import of oil from Iran and charge a levy of Rs30 or Rs50 per liter.

After the fencing of border areas, the movement of people has been blocked which caused several problems in certain districts of Balochistan. Now people have been protesting over the blockade for the last 282 days.

Top official sources confirmed to The News on Wednesday it was a sensitive issue in the wake of economic sanctions imposed by the US on Iran, so the government was trying to find a solution to initiate Barter Trade to avert the violation of such sanctions.

There is also a complicated situation internally because for the last 282 days, people from Balochistan have staged sit-ins for resumption of movement and trade with the neighbouring countries. Some 56 percent population of Balochistan province resides in these 13 districts. Around 10,000 motor launches were used to bring oil from Iran. There are rough estimates that around one million liters of POL products are being smuggled at the moment from Iran daily. The government and intelligence agencies knew that there was a network of 14,000 people across the country who were allegedly involved in transporting and using smuggled oil from Iran. Now the high-powered committee, led by the minister for commerce and other ministers along with bureaucrats, is deliberating on regularising the border trade without facing the wrath of US.

Traders who are involved in this barter trade have proposed to the government to impose a levy of Rs30 or Rs50 per liter. They have alleged that personnel manning check-posts were charging bribes in the range of Rs50 per liter for transportation of petrol and diesel in different parts of the country. If the government starts charging a levy up to Rs50 per liter, then there would be no problem for them for paying into national kitty.

The high-powered committee is expected to present a detailed report to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for taking a final decision on this proposed package. Sources said that there were substance markets for promoting trade in border areas but out of four, only two are operational. In the border areas of hundreds of kilometers, where there is no involvement of banking transactions there is a need to initiate barter trade. Both the countries could promote bilateral trade in the shape of exchanging goods with each other.