GILGIT, June 2: The first dry port of Northern Areas has been commissioned after a long delay and without any funfair. A joint venture of China and Pakistan, the Sust Dry Port was completed at a cost of $1.26 million at the border check-post of Sust, in upper Hunza, some 170 kilometres from here.

The dry port was scheduled to be inaugurated by President Gen Pervez Musharraf but the ceremony could not take place due to cancellation of his visit to Northern Areas on May 31.

The authorities said that the dry port had been allowed to start functioning on June 1.

They said that the new freight handling facility would streamline the border trade between the two countries as it was equipped with electronic weight bridge, proper warehouses and modern freight handling facilities and accommodation facilities for traders.

They believed that this would curb rampant smuggling in the area and only ‘genuine’ traders would be able to get through the new facility.

Meanwhile the Northern Areas home department has opposed the decision of the Northern Areas Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NACCI) and directed that the aspirants should obtain border pass from the chief secretary’s office by depositing Rs300 than paying Rs3,000 to the NACCI.

But the NACCI opposed the decision of the home department and contended that it (NACCI) was only competent to issue the border passes in the light of the Pakistan-China Border Protocol which was renewed and reviewed every year.

The NACCI sources further said that over 3,000 border pass holders visited China every year but added: “The trade by the border pass holders will decrease in the coming years because the Chinese authorities are not satisfied with the quality of trade and transaction volume undertaken by the border pass holders.”

They said that it was likely that the issuance of the border passes for border trade would be revoked in future due to limited purchasing power of the border passers.

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