Voice of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Friday, September 30, 2022

Pak Afghan trade during COVID-19, a much needed shot in the arm

Coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of international borders among various countries. Pakistan also closed all its borders with neighboring countries for a limited time period in order to stop the spread of coronavirus. The decision resulted in closure of crossings at Torkham and Chaman borders which severely affected Pakistan-Afghanistan trade.

Afghanistan relies heavily on Pakistan for transit as well as bilateral trade. The trade is a major source of livelihood for its people as well as business community. Therefore, temporary closure led to the shortage of basic commodities, causing inflation inside Afghanistan as well as rendering thousands of daily wagers associated with the transport and transit industry jobless.

Pakistan’s main exports to Afghanistan are sugar, wheat, ghee, different oils, cement, industrial material, poultry products, medicines, healthcare equipment and wood furniture. While it imports dry fruits, carpets, and other perishable items from Afghanistan. During the pre-COVID-19 era, the Pak-Afghan trade volume had risen to $ 2.5 billion. However, the pandemic has adversely affected trade volume which is expected to be significantly lower than previous year.

Sensing the situation and on special request of Afghan government, a decision was taken in the meeting of National Command and Operating Centre permitting movement of cargo trucks and containers to cross over into Afghanistan thrice a week and further extending it to five days a week later on. Thousands afghan containers carrying goods stuck at Karachi port and causing huge financial losses were able to cross over to Afghanistan.

Earlier, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that Islamabad had taken the decision on philanthropic grounds on Afghanistan’s request. It said, “As a neighbor and in view of fraternal relations, Pakistan remains committed in extending solidarity to the people of Afghanistan, particularly at this time of global pandemic.”

It is pertinent to note that PM Imran Khan is keen on liberalizing measures at the Pakistan Afghanistan border for trade. Pakistan has announced special permission to handle Afghan cargo at Gwadar port under the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement 2010. This step will not only help in early clearance and quicker transportation of commodities to Afghanistan but will also enable Gwadar port to expand its trade volume.

The initiative of border reopening and allowing utilization of Gwadar port are steps which will not only help business community on both sides of the border but will also help in earning valuable export revenue in such difficult economic times. The decision has been hailed by the business community, terming it a milestone in promotion of trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Such steps should be a continuous process as it will help in improving ties between both countries leading to enhanced regional stability benefitting both countries.

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