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October 11, 2019

Officials say trade increased by 50pc with Afghanistan


October 11, 2019

LANDIKOTAL: The Pakistan Customs officials on Thursday said that despite scarce facilities and untrained staff at the Afghan customs offices, they have witnessed up to 50 percent increase in trade volume after the prime minister inaugurated 24/7 opening of the Torkham border on September 18.

However, Afghan customs authorities have denied keeping their offices open after 7 pm at the Afghanistan side of the border. The Afghan authorities still have reservations over the slow process of goods transportation and delay in issuing clearance documents to the Afghanistan-bound loaded trucks. Abdur Rahim, a customs clearing agent on the Afghan side of the border, told this scribe by phone that Afghan customs authorities have told the Pakistani counterparts that due to certain reasons, they could not give 24/7 facility to the traders and truckers. He said that on the request of the Pakistan Customs officials, the Afghan authorities have increased only two hours in their official duty starting from 9am to 7pm.

Talking to The News, Pakistan Customs official Ihsan Kiyani supported Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement and said that in the past three weeks, they have recorded 50 percent increase in the forward and reverse cargo between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said before the round-the-clock inauguration, they could only issue clearance documents to around 180 trucks carrying goods to Afghanistan. The official added that after the border was opened 24/7, around 300 trucks cross the border via Torkham. He said that in 2012, trade volume with Afghanistan was 2.5 billion dollars which had later dropped due to several reasons.

Meanwhile, Frontier Customs Agents Association Khyber Pakhtunkhwa President Ziaul Haq Sarhadi rejected the customs officials’ claim to have increased trade with Afghanistan. He termed it a bureaucratic drama being played to appease high-ups. He said until and unless both the countries did not resolve the border management issues, they could not increase mutual trade. Sarhadi said trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian countries was gradually decreasing due to poor facilities and trade hurdles on both sides of the Torkham border. Wahid Shinwari, Torkham Customs Agents Association office-bearer, said the demand for Pakistani goods in Afghanistan had increased after the border was inaugurated for 24/7. He said the opening of the border for round the clock helped increase in demand of Pakistani items from Afghanistan. Mehmoodul Hassan, the Pakistan Customs spokesman at Torkham, acknowledged transporters faced problems in cross-border cargo shifting.

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