It has turned into a set trend now that every time there is an opportunity for Afghans to thrive in terms of trade and economics – as well as other matters – our neighboring Pakistan is always there to create obstacles, availing of its infamous practice of double-dealing. The country through many meetings, visits and sessions pledges to support Afghanistan in every aspect and promises to strengthen bilateral trade ties but when the actual moment comes, the country reveals its true face. The recent of the country’s shocking move – contrary to all its promises and talks – is increasing custom tariffs by threefold compared to previous years on Afghan truckloads of pomegranates and grapes which cross into the country. This is a huge blow to the Afghan traders and farmers at a time of the fruits’ bumper harvest and peak season.
Among many other such instances, this recent hurdle created by Pakistan comes as just a week ago, Pakistan’s Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) President Maqsood Anwar Pervaiz stressed the need for removal of impediments to trade between the two countries. Meanwhile, the Torkham crossing has been recently inaugurated to operate 24/7; however, on the other hand, the country then carries out such acts to undermine the Afghan traders and make them incur huge losses. The country also injures Afghan traders when it uses the tactic of market dumping – which has been relatively controlled to some extent now. Pakistan is one of the major markets for Kandahar’s pomegranates and gardeners export most of their agricultural produce into the country. According to the Kandahar Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Pakistan is currently charging the traders up to 300,000 Pakistani rupees ($ 1913) per load, rendering them to earn no profit. This is while the main problems for Afghan businessmen and farmers are the lack of a proper market along with the shortage of cold storages – which result in the rotting of produce if remained unsold.
Pakistan has never honored its assurances. Among many other agreements, the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) has not been implemented in true letter and spirit as of yet. The country should know that this endless blame game, the prevalence of mistrust, and pursuit of stringent policies would never help mend the bilateral relationship between the two countries. Pakistan should identify its blunders and introduce drastic changes in the interstate modus operandi because this situation doesn’t help it at all other than hurting it. According to some traders, they have been bearing the brunt of high tariffs imposed by Pakistan for the past 18 years. The government has earlier tried to resolve the issues in commerce with Pakistan by bypassing the country through air corridors, alternative routes and markets for agricultural products. However, these efforts are still not enough. The Ministry of Industry and Commerce should seriously look into these issues of traders and somehow make the country deliver on its promises, or otherwise punish the country with a reciprocal move – something that should be done as a last resort by Afghanistan but would probably further strain the bilateral relations.