Trade with Afghanistan via Torkham doubles in recent months

KHYBER: Trade activities have picked up momentum at the Torkham crossing here in the recent months amid a decline in pedestrian movement across the border point due to strict enforcement of the Individual Voluntary Arrangement System.

Sources at Torkham border told Dawn that Pak-Afghan trade had doubled during the last three months and it was likely go up further in the months ahead to the relief of the business community, which had suffered losses since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last August.

They said the number of vehicles taking Pakistani goods to Afghanistan via Torkham had plummeted to just 80 vehicles soon after Kabul fell to the Taliban.

Exporter-cum-custom clearing agent Mujeebullah Shinwari insisted that Pakistan had set strict conditions for trade with Afghanistan, especially doing it in US dollar only, which badly affected both exports to and imports from Afghanistan.

Exporters say troubled times over for them

He told Dawn that the troubled times were over and the things were back on track for the re-establishment of the businessmen’s links with their contacts in Afghanistan.

Mr Shinwari said most local exporters and importers had seen an improvement in Pak-Afghan trade as the government provided them with much-needed alternate ways and means to overcome the difficulties they had confronted since August last year.

He said the harsh conditions of bank deposits and remittances for importer had been removed, while exporters were allowed to continue buying some major items in Pakistani currency.

The exporter said those steps boosted exports taking the number of loaded vehicles leaving Pakistan for Afghanistan to almost 250 daily and 300 on certain days.

Iblan Ali, another customs clearing agent, said construction material topped the list of exported goods and they were followed by edibles.

He said cement, paint, bathroom accessories, hardware, clothes, shoes and other goods were exported to Afghanistan in large quantities.

The clearing agent also said edible oil and ghee, rice, dairy products and fresh fruits and vegetables had high demand in Afghanistan and were exported in good quantities.

Mussawir Khan, a young coal importer at Torkham, was upbeat about a surge in import of coal and soap stone from Afghanistan in the recent months and said 250-300 trucks or containers carrying the two minerals reached Pakistan daily via Torkham border.

He said while dry fruits were also imported in a small quantity during the current months of the year, Afghan fresh fruits and vegetables would start coming in during the peak summer months to boost bilateral trade.

The importer said the better Pak-Afghan trade had significantly made up for the losses businessmen had suffered during the first three to four months of the Taliban forming government in Kabul.

Customs officials at Torkham confirmed an increase in the country’s business with Afghanistan and said the government was keen to provide further relief to both locals and Afghans.

They said Pakistan’s exports to Central Asian States via Torkham was also in progress under the International Trade Route Agreement and around 100 trucks and containers loaded with Pakistani goods had left for those states in the last 10-12 months.

The officials said the trade with Central Asian States would gain momentum in the summer due to the snowfall-induced closure of some routes in the winter.

They said rice, medicines, sport gears and equipment, and leather products were exported to CARs, while medicines and cotton-related items were imported from there.

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2022

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