PESHAWAR: The government has announced the opening of Pak-Afghan border at Torkham and Chaman posts round the clock for six days per week, according to a notification issued by Ministry of Interior late Friday.
The border was closed on March 27, 2020, as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of COVID-19 virus. Later, it was opened for three days a week in April.
According to the notification, the decision regarding the opening of Pak-Afghan border was taken in the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) meeting.
“Both the borders will remain open 24 hours for six days except Saturday, which will be reserved for pedestrian movement only as per procedure already in vogue. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), as applicable for air passengers, would be implemented for pedestrians as well,” it stated. “During the six days when the border will be open, unlimited number of trucks will be allowed to cross per day while ensuring proper SOPs and guidelines for both Afghan bilateral trade and Afghan Transit Trade.”
Meanwhile, the business community has hailed the government’s decision, terming it “a milestone in the promotion of trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan”.
Commenting on the development, Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Afghanistan and Central Asian Trade Committee Convener Shahid Khan Shinwari thanked the members of Afghan business delegations as well as the officials of the Afghanistan Border Force who recently held a meeting with their Pakistani counterparts at Torkham border to discuss ways and means to ensure the enhancement of bilateral trade between the two neighbouring countries.
He informed that the Afghan government had requested Pakistan government regarding the reopening of the Torkham border, early clearance of stranded trucks on both sides of the border and issues pertaining to the facilitation of traders and businessmen at the border.
He said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has extended all-out support to the traders of both countries as this decision would speed up the vehicle clearance processes.
He also thanked Jawad Hussain Kazmi and Col Siddique of Khyber Chamber of Commerce Group. “Solutions to border issues particularly helped ease the flow of visitors from both countries. It was a joint effort which would boost trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
Meanwhile, Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) Senior Vice President Shahid Hussain said that the closure of the Pak-Afghan border had disrupted the country remaining trade with Afghanistan. He welcomed the opening of border for exports but also urged the government to allow import from Kabul.
He informed that more than 8,000 Afghan transit trade vehicles were waiting for clearance.
Talking to this scribe, Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, former SVP of Pak-Afghan Chamber, told this scribe that the 24-hour opening of the Afghan border would facilitate the clearance of more than 8,000 Afghan transit trade, export trucks and containers stuck in Pakistan for over a month.
However, he also urged government to allow imports from Afghanistan, as it would be beneficial to enhance mutual trade relations. “Fresh fruits, including dates, pomegranates, apples and grapes, should be allowed to come to Pakistan.”