Pakistani traders protest prolonged closure of Khunjerab Pass

ISLAMABAD: Owing to the Pak-China border’s closure that has now lasted for over 20 months, traders who use this land route have begun protesting in Islamabad, decrying the massive damage the closure has caused their businesses.

The business community has given a week’s deadline to open the border and has warned of sit-ins in Islamabad and Gilgit Baltistan (GB).

Traders in GB lamented that they have lost patience over the continuous closure of the Sost border.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, a group of traders from GB headed by Exporters Association Chairman Javed Hussain has appealed to Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the foreign minister, commerce minister and the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan to open the Pak-China border for trade.

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Hussain said that due to the closure of the border, traders have lost millions of rupees. “All traders of the region will be forced to hold peaceful sit-ins outside Khunjerab Pass, the Parliament House and Ministry of Foreign Affairs if their demands are not met.”

He said that the Pak-China is the only source of livelihood for all small and big traders of the region. 

China has its borders with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and normal trade continues but the Pak-China border is still closed. 

Hussain said that the Pakistani Foreign Ministry has issued a notification to reopen the Pak-China border. However, the Chinese authorities have refused to implement the notification due to which the goods imported from China by Pakistani traders are getting damaged in the warehouses of Kashgar, which may cause a further loss of millions.

Besides, the goods of Diamerbhasha Dam, Dasu and Mohmand Dams lying in the warehouses of Kashgar are also deteriorating.

It may be recalled here that China had earlier agreed to open the Khunjerab border for trade but with stiff conditions in view of the Covid-19 situation. Under the conditions set by the Chinese government, Pakistani exporters and importers would not be allowed to enter China and would instead load and unload goods on Pakistan’s side of the border for inspection and sterilisation.

It was agreed that Chinese exporters would leave the goods on a specific location of Pakistan’s side of the border from where importers may receive them after following the SOPs. Similarly, exporters would also leave their goods at the same location which buyers from China would receive after completion of the same process on their side of the border.

As per documents available with Profit, personnel and the vehicles of both parties were directed to work in different time frames to avoid direct contact. In this regard, loading and unloading, dropping and hanging up the trailer are to be done separately when the cargo inspection channel is opened.

However, the border has remained closed for bilateral trade despite assurances from both countries for unknown reasons.

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Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]

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