KHYBER: The shortage of tracker belts with customs authorities has been impeding import of onion from Afghanistan via Torkham border during the last couple of weeks.
Sources at Torkham told Dawn that fixing of a tracker belt to every container taking transit goods to Wagah border, including onions, was mandatory for security reasons as per transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Vegetable importers and custom clearing agents at Torkham said that tracker belts were either short in stock with the officials or were provided to them from Karachi in limited number which affected the prompt and smooth custom clearance of onion at the border after its arrival from Afghanistan.
They said that the long delay due to non-availability of the tracker belts resulted in stranding of hundreds of loaded vehicles on both sides of the border which also caused rotting of the essential commodity and subsequent financial losses to both importers and custom clearing agents.
Delay in clearance of vehicles results in traffic congestion at Torkham
The transporters and traders said that delay in fixing of tracing device at onion vehicles also slowed down crossing of border for other vehicles loaded with other trade goods, which also included grapes, tomatoes, pomegranate and vegetables that could not afford longer delay at the border crossing.
The custom officials, when contacted by this scribe, acknowledged delay in clearance of Wagah-bound onion loaded vehicles.
They said that the delay was also affecting exports to Afghanistan as the stranded vehicles had once again caused traffic congestion at the border.
They said that they had a late afternoon meeting with their Afghan counterparts on Afghan side of the border to devise a mechanism for speedy ‘disposal’ of onion cargos for Wagah.
The officials said that they suggested to the Afghan authorities to either load the commodity into empty Pakistani vehicles stranded on the Afghan side of the border or the Afghan government should issue a security clearance certificate to the loaded vehicles to avoid fixing of tracking device to them on the Pakistan side.
The two sides are yet to reach a final conclusion on the resolution of the issue.
Meanwhile, local traders exporting retail items to Afghanistan via Torkham demanded relaxation in custom inspection and scanning of every item.
They said that the practice was causing undue delay in the process of its custom clearance.
They said that the electronic scanning machine could easily detect any illegal item in the vehicle during the scanning process of the entire vehicle where as the National Logistic Cell staff scanned every single item they had loaded in the vehicle for export to Afghanistan.
They suggested detailed examination of any suspicious vehicle by the custom authorities instead of subjecting each and every vehicles to the ‘torturous’ process of scanning which was both time consuming and irritating for transporters and traders.
Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2020