GILGIT: Local importers and exporters on Wednesday suspended trade with China through Khunjerab pass here in protest against introduction of WeBOC (Web-Based One Customs) for goods clearance at the Sust dry port here because the region lacked a proper internet service and the traders were not educated enough to learn about the new system.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of various trade organisations in Gilgit, called by Gilgit-Baltistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (GBCCI).

The representatives of GB importers and exporters association, Hunza-Nagar Chamber of Commerce, customs clearing agents association and others attended the meeting.

Talking to mediapersons after the meeting, GBCCI president Nasir Hussain Raki alleged that Pakistan Customs was imposing new laws at Sust Dry Port to fail the traders.

“It is a conspiracy to fail trade activity between Pakistan and China through the Karakoram Highway as it will render thousands of local people jobless,” he declared.

He said the online clearance and processing of shipments was being introduced in an area where internet was not available.

“How exporters and importers can ensure the compliance with the system being launched here when the area is deprived of internet service, besides, the local traders are not educated enough to learn the new system,” he said.

He said the shipments from China would not be cleared for months for want of the computer-based clearance at the dry port, causing huge losses to traders.

Mr Raki said GB was disputed territory, therefore, it should be declared a tax-free zone as per the wishes of locals.

He said the local traders won’t let any container pass from GB until their demands were meet.

Irshad Hussain, a trader, alleged that the federal government was discriminating against GB people, saying their next plan of action would be to start agitation against the centre to pressure it to declare GB a tax-free zone under CPEC.

Meanwhile, PPP member of the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly Javed Hussain, while talking on a point of order during the ongoing session of the house, said according to the international laws taxes could not be imposed in an area from where people had no representation in the legislation body.

“As GB has no representation in the Parliament of Pakistan, collection of taxes from GB people is unlawful,” the lawmaker declared.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2018