LANDI KOTAL: The local traders, custom clearing agents and transporters have expressed satisfaction with the arrangements made for the 24-hour opening of the Torkham border crossing on a tribal basis since Sept 2.

They said traffic congestion on the border crossing had eased as the vehicles carrying trade goods were cleared as late as midnight, while empty vehicles, which used to remain stranded on the Afghan side of the border, entered Pakistan at own convenience both in the daytime and at night.

President of the local transport union Haji Azeemullah said the nighttime border operation had provided a huge relief to transporters.

Traders, transporters hail new measures

He complained about the manual checking of loaded vehicles by guards at zero point and demanded the installation of an additional scanner.

“The manual checking not only takes lots of time but it also hampers the free movement of vehicles at the zero point. This is against the essence of round-the-clock opening of the border crossing, which ensures the speedy and smooth vehicular movement,” he said.

Custom clearing agent Sabir Khan told Dawn that bilateral trade would gradually gain momentum with the 24-hour border opening.

He said the new arrangements had significantly reduced both vehicular and pedestrian congestions on the border as there was no time bar for crossing the border.

Mr Sabir said a further improvement in the electronic scanning of trade vehicles along with the internet service, which was required for the web-based One Custom, would expedite the custom clearing of export goods and ease the misery of both clearing agents and transporters.

Another clearing agent Habibur Rehman said most of his colleagues were satisfied with the new arrangements and hoped that trade activities on the Torkham border would get the much needed boost.

He said he was not happy with custom staff checking loaded vehicles for contrabands by inserting an iron rod as the practice damaged trade merchandise and wasted time.

The agent called the Rs2,500 NLC fee for scanning a vehicle unjust and demanded reduction in it by 50 per cent to the relief of both transporters and traders.

The Afghan transporters also complained about complications and delays in the issuance of Pakistan visa both in Kabul and Jalalabad.

They said they had to come to Pakistan frequently in connection with the transportation of trade goods, so their visa applications should be processed speedily.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2019