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Trade with Afghanistan via Torkham on constant decline

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Kabul: A Pakistani media reported that contrary to repeated official promises to increase trade with Afghanistan through the Torkham border and provide facilities to traders, the volume of bilateral trade has been declining since 2016.

According to Dawn Newspaper, the quantum of bilateral trade with Afghanistan has plummeted to a mere $800 million in comparison to $1.3 billion per annum in 2015-16, thanks to a lack of interest and coordination between various government departments operating at Torkham.

Importers, exporters, custom clearing agents and transporters with whom this scribe interacted on the matter said that visits by different government dignitaries to Torkham and a series of consultative meetings proved to be an exercise in futility.

“I have been attending such meetings at Torkham, Peshawar and even Islamabad since 2016 but all such occasions proved to be a mere ‘rhetoric’ as nothing concrete is done to alleviate the sufferings of traders and transporters while the trade is on the constant decline,” Haji Jabir Shinwari, patron-in-chief of All KP Exporters Association and a founding member of Khyber Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told this scribe.

He said that government had no will to promote bilateral trade with Afghanistan and solve the issues faced by traders and transporters, adding that around 120 of the total 131 exporters had shifted their businesses outside Pakistan during the last three to four years due to the unfriendly trade policies of the government.

Zahidullah Shinwari, a two-time president of Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, wondered as to why the clearance of export goods slowed down when trade with Afghanistan had declined to a mere 20 per cent in comparison to the start of construction work on the so-called state-of-the-art custom terminal in 2015.

He added that Pakistan was yet to sign a free trade, preferential trade agreement with Afghanistan besides reducing taxes and tariffs for the collective benefit of traders of both countries.

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