PESHAWAR: The government’s decision to open Torkham border “only for 100 trade vehicles a day” has irked the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa traders, who have warned that the decision would further impact the country’s already dwindling exports to Afghanistan.
The interior ministry had recently announced that Pakistan would keep its border with Afghanistan open for five days a week for both bilateral as well as transit trade. “Every day, 50 vehicles of transit and 50 trucks of bilateral trade will be allowed to cross the border for Afghanistan. The limitations have been imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus,” the ministry had stated.
Criticising the ministry’s decision, KP exporters said that it would not only hurt the traders’ income but would also cause heavy losses to the national exchequer. They lamented that Pakistan’s trade with Afghanistan was on a constant decline, with most of the volume being shifted to Iran and India.
The traders demanded “complete opening of the Pak-Afghan border” so that trade activities in the province could be revived.
Talking to this scribe, Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) Senior Vice President Shahid Hussain said despite the government’s notification regarding the resumption of partial trade with Afghanistan, “no activity could take place on the Pak-Afghan border on Monday, and the trade vehicles remained parked at different points”.
He said that KP exporters had loaded their trucks with vegetables, fresh fruits and other food items as soon as the government had announced that the border would be opened from Monday. “But the border administration is only allowing some transit vehicles to pass.”
He informed that the vehicles of KP traders were parked at Landi Kotal and Takhta Bag due to which food items worth millions of rupees were in danger of going to waste.
“If transit containers currently stuck at Karachi port also arrive at Torkham, then there will be no space for these vehicles in the province.”
He urged the authorities to reconsider this decision and facilitate the traders who were fighting for survival amid coronavirus.
Habib Khan, a truck driver at the Torkham border, said the government’s “100-vehicle decision” would only provide the officials with another chance at corruption. “Those who will pay more bribes will be allowed to cross the border while poor drivers will have to wait for days for their turn.”
Upon contact, clearing agent Gulab Khan said on the first day, the border management only allowed transit vehicles to pass, as there were around 2,500 to 3,500 such vehicles already lined up to cross the border.
However, he acknowledged, the speed at which the vehicles were being allowed would create problems for export vehicles, as most of them were fresh vegetables and fruits.