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Visa restriction poses bad impacts on trade, business

From Shamim Shahid-PESHAWAR: Deteriorating relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, visa restrictions for crossing over the Pak Afghan crossings badly affecting trade and economic activities throughout the tribal belt in general and border towns in particular.

During a visit to Landi Kotal, town of Khyber Agency near to Pak Afghan border, it was observed, “the one time most busy town look like a grieved locality.” Though almost shops were open but shopkeepers waiting for shoppers and customers.” Similarly, presence and visit of people from surrounding villages to this historically congested bazaars and markets is also on decline.

Due to recently introduced and imposed sanctions/restrictions for crossing over the Pak Afghan crossing at Torkham, thousands of goods trucks are in queues on both sides. Inside Pakistan, the queues of rucks and trollars, loaded with goods included perish items like fruits, vegetables, poultry and others are on around 15 kilometers of Peshawar-Torkham Road. “Clearance of these vehicles for crossing over the border is being completed from three to five days,” some of the drivers said. Even the complicated process proving beneficial for the personnel of law enforcing agencies right from Takhta Beg Check Post till Torkham Gate as they helping drivers in over-taking hundreds of vehicles in their controlled areas.

Har Pareet Singh, a shopkeeper while talking to this Correspondent said that due to closure and imposition of visa/passport restrictions, there is a sharp decline in business and trade activities in Landi Kotal. He said that customers from Afghanistan’s border areas now couldn’t visit the border town. Even local people who were interested in Afghanistan products or imported items (transit trade) now approaching Peshawar and other markets.

Mr. Singh who belong Sikh community in response to a question, said, “though passport and Visa restrictions could be justified for common visitor but it could be hard for all those who frequently and even daily crossing over the border. In such a circumstances, government needs to find out a solution.

Similar views were also expressed by Alam Sher running a Restaurant and Awal Meer owner of traditional Chapli Kabab Karahee in Landi Kotal. Both of them prayed for early resolving of tensions between the two neighbouring countries as its people are linked in relations with each other’s. Even Alam Sher believes that tensions could pose bad impacts on trade and business circles throughout the country.

Beside declining trade and business activities, almost tribesmen are also made uncertain by indifferent attitude on the part of personnel of law enforcing agencies. Right from home till Bazaars, offices and other destinations, not only common men but even highly respectable tribal elders, businessmen and intellectuals are bound to go through identity, vehicles and body searches. In case of over-turn near to check posts, these tribesmen are facing punishment and humiliation.

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