ISLAMABAD: The National Logistics Cell (NLC), in coordination with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has completed arrangements for round-the-clock trans-border trade with Afghanistan through Torkham border terminal which is expected to open next week.
The terminal has been operating 24/7 on a trial basis and will be formally opened at a ceremony to be held at Torkham.
The work to upgrade the terminal began after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, on his last visit in June, requested Prime Minister Imran Khan to ease trade between the two countries through the border crossing.
On Sunday, the NLC said in a statement that the development entails significant benefits for landlocked Afghanistan as it would drastically reduce its dependency on other countries. The move will facilitate export and import business, reduce congestion and ease pedestrian movement between the two countries and will particularly enhance the Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade. Bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan stands at around $2.6 billion a year.
Move will facilitate export and import, and reduce congestion
The NLC has made additional arrangements for office accommodation of Customs, Nadra, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) and other departments such as the Frontier Corps (FC) to discharge their duties pertaining to regulation of cargo and passenger movement. More container and baggage scanners, CCTV monitoring, lighting and other amenities have been put in place for smooth functioning of the terminal.
The NLC said that the Torkham border terminal had brought about a paradigm shift in regulating two-way movement of passengers and cargo and had helped curbing the cross-border movement of miscreants, illegal trade, narcotics trafficking as well as backward flow of transit trade goods to Pakistan.
The NLC, which operates the terminal, claimed that it has not only become an important instrument of overall border management system but also arrested the fallout from smuggling of imported goods on the local industry. The border terminal is bringing about a major cultural change as Torkham is no longer free for all border crossing points as everything is being documented and accounted for, the statement said.
According to an official, the border terminal, which will run in two shifts day and night, will particularly ease movement of Afghans who travel across the border in large numbers for treatment in hospitals in Peshawar.
He said that the number of scanners to scan 40-foot-long containers has been increased to two. “Similarly, two additional baggage scanners have also been added when previously only one was in place,” the official said, adding that the new border terminal will now provide a single platform for all government departments, for example the FIA and FC, to mention some. These measures were also taken to plug loopholes that allow smuggling.
The official said that ease in trade would facilitate businessmen who deal in perishable items.
According to the NLC, the border terminal has generated significant economic activities in the area which is largely benefiting the local KhugaKhel Shinwari tribe.
The tribe is being paid a handsome share from the revenue generated on monthly in addition to millions of rupees annual payment in lieu of land provided for the border terminal under a lease agreement.
“The work on improvement of facilities at the border terminal has already started under the Integrated Transit Trade Management System regime. The border terminal will meet all international standards after completion of the up-grade project,” an NLC official said.
The official said that, trade is being carried out between Pakistan and Afghanistan through Kharlachi in Kurram district, through Ghulam Khan in North Waziristan and Chaman.
Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2019