close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
 
March 6, 2021

Trade matters

Editorial

 
March 6, 2021

In a recent appeal by the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), the businessmen and industrialists of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have called for including export items to the Central Asian Republics in the Web Based One Customs (WeBOC) system to boost trade. WeBOC is a system developed for the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and its divisions such as Customs to facilitate the ease of doing business. Exporters, importers, and customs clearing agents can use this system to file goods declarations for their export and import cargo. The SCCI has been demanding the removal of hurdles that impede trade with the Central Asian Republics (CARs). Though the FBR is reported to have taken some steps in that direction, trade with the CARs remains dismally low. The SCCI has developed a flagship project to promote trade with Central Asia and has been seeking the cooperation of the FBR and other relevant government authorities, but progress has been slow.

The demands of the SCCI make perfect sense, and the FBR with other government departments must make quick progress in this direction. Central Asia has tremendous potential for trade with Pakistan and this we have been hearing since the early 1990s. When the USSR disintegrated in 1991 and the five Central Asian countries – along with 10 other Soviet republics – became independent, Pakistan was under the first Nawaz Sharif government. Observers of Pakistan’s relations with the newly independent CARs remember that the then federal minister Sardar Asif Ahmed Ali visited Central Asia and explored the possibilities of trade. Initially there was a lot of excitement at the independence of these Muslim majority countries, but soon the first Sharif government was removed in 1993 and talks about better trade relations with Central Asia also fizzled out. Then in 1996 Afghanistan came under the Taliban and the entire region once again became a hotbed of militancy. During the rule of General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan was embroiled in the Afghan war once again and the 2000s became a lost decade in terms of trade with Central Asia.

Now again a lot depends on how the peace process in Afghanistan unfolds. If the situation remains unstable, there will not be much chance of improved trade relations with the CARs. Projects such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline remain stalled. There is a need for broader reconciliation among the countries of this region. Afghanistan appears to be the key player in this game and all other countries should play their respective role to restore peace in this region for better trade cooperation and for the prosperity of the people. The combined population of Central Asia is nearly 75 million people, and the region is full of natural resources that can benefit all. Moreover, Central Asia is a landlocked region and Pakistan can boost its own trade potential if we manage to establish peace. Unless such broader aspects of the problems are resolved by all the countries involved, the prospects of better trade are likely to remain low.