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PESHAWAR: The local business community has pointed out that the closure of Torkham border for the last nine days is causing heavy financial loss to it as export bound perishable goods have been stranded in containers on both sides of the border.

Talking to Dawn here on Sunday, Senior Vice President Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PAJCCI), Zia-ul-Haq Sarhadi said that the perishable items included poultry, meat, vegetables, fresh fruits and juices, saying that exporters were unable to find any alternative solution to the problem.

Hundreds of trucks loaded with containers of export goods, Nato supply and goods brought under transit trade were stranded on Peshawar-Torkham Highway and the transporters were waiting for opening of the border, he observed.

Similarly, he said, the imports from Afghanistan including fresh, dry fruit and wool were also stranded on the Afghan side of border.

Mr Sarhadi said the businessmen had extended full support the government for the security measures taken under the prevailing situation of the country, adding that the national security should be top priority of every citizen.

“The security of Pakistan is very much dear to us and all other matters are not more important than the security and salvation of the country and for this purpose if military and security agencies take some steps we will fully stand by them,” he stated categorically.

He said major portion of Pakistani exports enters into Afghanistan through Torkham and Chaman border crossings while Kharlachi (Kurram Agency), Angoor Adda (South Waziristan Agency) and Ghulam Khan (North Waziristan Agency) were the other trade routes with Afghanistan. But, for the last nine days all these crossings are closed and everything has come to a halt.

Mr Sarhadi said that the United States had introduced the latest SKODA information system on the Afghan side of border at both Torkham and Chaman to facilitate the transporters by saving time in checking of goods. The system is directly linked with 122 countries of the world.

The business community of the country, he said, was demanding the same system on Pakistan side too, which was being installed at the under-construction modern export terminal at Torkham.

The volume of Pakistan’s export to Afghanistan which was US$2.5 billion a few years back had declined to US$1.5 billion as the transit trade was also being shifted to Bandar Abbass and Chabahar ports of Iran.

Similarly, he said, hundreds of containers were also stranded at Karachi Port Trust (KPT), Port Qasim and other seaports of Pakistan where demurrages to the tune of millions of rupees was charged while the trucks loaded with goods were also demanding heavy charges.

Furthermore, he said, three more ships loaded with hundreds of containers had docked at the Karachi Port.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2017