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Pak, Afghan leadership urged to end face-off to boost trade ties

By Riaz Khan Daudzai
March 30, 2019

PESHAWAR: Business communities on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border have expressed concern at the “bitter” trade ties between the two countries and said the stand-off has led to a trust deficit, affecting the long-term socio-economic relations of the two neighbouring nations.

The traders and business communities have also urged Afghan authorities to convene the meetings of Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA) and Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) to find out a way out and strengthen economic integration across the border.

The Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI), the lone private sector platform working for economic integration of the two countries, has also time and again raised the matter with both the governments.

However, nothing worthwhile has happened so far to break the face-off between the two countries that has led to the closure of the historic border crossing at Torkham for trade flow over the last so many months.

The PAJCCI has also held the intervention of “international players” in Afghanistan responsible for knocking down the long-term socio-economic linkages between the two neighbours.

The trans-border Chamber acknowledged that the trust deficit has devastatingly enhanced during the last few months due to the unlawful detention of more than 2000 empty containers and trucks by the Afghan authorities at their side of the border.

The step, it said, has not only had an adverse impact on the Pakistani traders and transporters but also damaging the goods exported for Afghanistan which have been lying at the Karachi port for months now.

PAJCCI Chairman Zubair Motiwala said in a communication to The News that the chamber had been pushing the matter hard since October last year and it had been brought to the notice of the higher officials in Afghanistan. The Afghan president was also approached to intervene and resolve the matter, he added.

This hold-up has led to a shortage of containers and trucks in Pakistan that led to exorbitant detention charges by the shipping companies and bonded carries making costs of business enormously high for the traders in both the countries.

He said that both the governments should segregate trade ties from political tensions and take security measures to strengthen peace without compromising their trade ties. Motiwala said both the governments should allow economics to function freely. The free flow of economic activities would ensure lasting regional economic integration which would also help restore peace to the region.

PAJCCI President Jawaid Bilwani stressed the need for “open lines of communication” between the two countries as envisioned by the leadership of both the countries and urged Afghan authorities to convene meetings of the APTTCA and APAPPS for the mutual benefit of the trade entities across the border. He further said that due to such economic disintegration, the business communities of both the countries were facing financial losses and bilateral trade dropped while transit trade has shifted to other corridors.

The situation is going to result in instability in ties of the two neighbours, in the long run, he added.

Zia Sarhadi, PAJCCI representative on Pakistan-Afghanistan Liaison Committee, Peshawar, told this scribe that Afghan authority was making illegal demands for clearing empty containers to Pakistan.

However, he said that at Chaman, Quetta, the empty containers are returned within two or three days, while in Torkham these cargo containers have not been sent back after months.