Renewal of Pak-Afghan transit trade agreement delayed

PESHAWAR: As the transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan is expiring on the 11th of this month, no progress has so far been made with regard to the renewal of the agreement, it was learnt on Friday.
Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, former senior vice president of the Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, informed this scribe that a high-powered meeting on Pak-Afghan transit trade was held in Islamabad in December last year. “During the meeting, Pakistan presented its proposals for the new Pak-Afghan Transit and Trade Agreement to the Afghan authorities but no response has been received so far on the recommendations,” he added.
Sarhadi said if a new trade agreement is not signed by 11th Feb, then the “unfavorable” agreement of 2010 will automatically be renewed for the next five years.
He recalled that the first Pak-Afghan transit trade agreement was signed in Geneva in 1965, which lasted for 45 years. Under this agreement, all goods from Karachi port to Peshawar and Chaman were supplied by rail, giving Pakistan Railways a Rs7 billion profit per annum.
“But under the 2010 agreement, certain private truck companies, after getting registered with the FBR, took over the cargo business, causing colossal losses to the government exchequer. This reduced Pak-Afghan transit trade by 70pc.”
Sarhadi said the traders had proposed that the new agreement must include the supply of transit and trade goods from Karachi port to Peshawar and Chaman through railways and loose cargo, as this would not only help the government generate revenue, but would also facilitate the traders in terms of hassle-free supply of goods.
Meanwhile, talking to this scribe, Pak-Afghan Chamber Vice President and Afghan businessman Khan Jan Alokozai said that Pak-Afghan transit trade has taken a massive hit in the recent past due to lack of trust [between governments] and non-renewal of agreements.
“The Afghan government had proposed in the last meeting that the new agreement should be in line with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other international laws, but this was probably unacceptable for Pakistan as they raised some objections on the issue,” he said. “If we do not move towards a new agreement, the 2010 agreement will be extended.”
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