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Pakistani, Uzbek goods trade via Afghanistan

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Afghanistan is to be a business hub between Pakistan and Uzbekistan, a move hailed as a milestone for regional economy development.

Islamabad and Tashkent have so far exchanged some goods through Afghanistan.

A Pakistani cargo truck transported medicine from the port city of Karachi on April 9 to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, via Kabul.

It arrived on May 4. An Uzbek cargo truck then took a shipment of leather products from Tashkent on May 9 and arrived at the Torkham crossing on May 11. It then was trucked to Faisalabad on May 13.

The shipments are part of five planned trial runs aimed at testing the viability of various routes in the region, where trade has been hampered by the decades-old conflict in Afghanistan and longstanding diplomatic tensions between Kabul and Islamabad as the Afghan governments blamed Pakistan for the supporting terrorist group.

The project has received technical and financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The agency said the initiative is intended to “boost regional trade integration and connectivity.”

The shipments were made under the Transports Internationaux Routiers (TIR) Convention, a customs agreement that facilitates the international transport of goods. The multilateral treaty eliminates the need to pay customs duties and taxes. Afghanistan rejoined the TIR after a 30-year suspension in 2013, while Pakistan joined in 2017.

William Byrd, a development economist at the United States Institute of Peace, a Washington-based think tank, says the pilot project is an “encouraging development” but “more a proof of concept than a milestone.”

“If this gets taken forward by expanding to other Central Asian countries and is scaled up over time in terms of the volume of transit trade, there will be important benefits for both Pakistan and Central Asia,” says Byrd. “If this transit trade develops on a larger scale, it will also increase the economic stakes of neighboring countries in Afghanistan’s peace and stability.”

Afghanistan’s neighbors have a long history of funding proxy groups in the decades-long conflict. Pakistan is the Taliban’s main foreign backer, while Iran and Russia have expanded ties with the militant group in recent years.

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