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Editorial: Bilateral trade with Pakistan

Situation is worsening day by day on main crossing points whereas high ups from both the neighbouring countries are going for sanctions and restrictions with each passing day. Despite polluted relations between Kabul and Islamabad since 2015, bilateral trade – which amounted to five billion rupees on Pakistan side somewhere in 2005-2006 – had not plummeted.

But now Pakistan’s trade volume with Afghanistan is on decline and some of Pakistani businessmen believe that trade volume is less than one billion rupees. Earlier, tribesmen living on both sides of the Durand Line were not capable of handling affairs regarding bilateral trade, but they helped a lot in resolving of tensions on border between troops and other government agencies of both the countries.

But now tribesmen, especially elders having influence on both sides of Pak-Afghan frontiers have lost the bulk of their influence. From last several days, tribal traders, transporters, shopkeepers and daily wage workers from Khyber are protesting at Torkham, which is internationally declared as the busiest crossing point between the two countries. They are unhappy with frequently introduced sanctions and restrictions on the pretext of Border Security Management by Pakistan.

Similarly, these tribal transporters are also uncertain due to hostile and unfriendly attitude on the part of authorities at Kabul. A tribal transporter Monday informed that their 2,100 trucks and trollers are stranded in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan. The Afghan officials are demanding 50,000 rupees per vehicle, which they said is “reaction to Pakistani government’s illegal taxes against the Afghan transporters”. The tribal transporter has alleged that both the governments are engaged in hostilities and enmities, causing huge financial and logistic losses on them.

Traders are requesting both the sides to review their hostile policies towards each other, otherwise it could be a severe blow to already “declined bilateral trade”. The tribal transporter is even claiming that they can easily resolve all tensions and misunderstandings between the two governments, if they were given a chance. Common citizens from Afghanistan and Pakistan, visiting and trading with each other, are complaining about indifferent attitude on the part of personnel of border security forces at Torkham, Chaman and other regular crossing-points. The indifferent attitude on the part of Pakistani officials already caused decline in visits of Afghan nationals to Peshawar and other main cities. And due to sanctions and restrictions, over 60 per cent of transit trade diverted from Karachi to Bandar Abbass Port in Iran and other Central Asian Republics.

These sanctions and restrictions are now causing worst kind of unrest to millions of Pakhtoons living on both sides of Durand Line. Instead of making these Pakhtoons jobless, Kabul and Islamabad need to exploit their traditional means of Jirga for entering into trustworthy and friendly relations, which could help in early addressing of identical issues of economy, administration, political and law and order, which are badly affecting both the countries and its people.

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