Trade with Afghanistan picks up after fall of Kabul

Published August 19, 2021
LABOURERS load crates of garlic from Afghanistan on a truck at the Friendship Gate in the border town of Chaman on Wednesday.—Reuters
LABOURERS load crates of garlic from Afghanistan on a truck at the Friendship Gate in the border town of Chaman on Wednesday.—Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s bilateral trade with Afghanistan saw a sudden rise since the Taliban took control of Kabul on Sunday.

A significant increase was noted in the number of cargo vehicles and pedestrian traffic across the western border.

The volume of bilateral trade had fallen to a very low level in the second week of July when the Taliban captured the Afghan district of Spin Boldak near the Cha­man border in Balochistan.

Data compiled by Pak­istan’s customs, which administers and governs border customs stations, show that bilateral trade with Afgh­anistan fell to a historic low on August 15 when only 475 trucks carrying goods — exports, imports and transit goods — crossed border at Torkham, Chaman, Khar­lachi and Ghulam Khan.

On August 15, the Taliban took over Kabul and declared its rule over Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid at it’s first press conference on Tuesday said that the Taliban will continue trading with neighboring countries. He said steps will be taken to promote trade.

The movement of trucks across the border reached 1,123 on Wednesday (August 17). “We are expecting that this number will further incr­ease after Muharram,” a senior customs officer told Dawn.

He said the trend over the past couple of days showed that the number of cargo/trucks crossing the border would increase further next week.

It is reported that several pending issues regarding facilitation of trade are expected to be given priority by the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan.

“We have held several meetings with Afghan authorities since November last year for resolving these issues,” the customs official said, adding that these issues remained unresolved despite several remainders.

One of the reasons for slowdown in cargo movement, according to drivers of trucks, was that Afghan police and transport ministry officials posted on the Afghan side demanded from drivers between 10,000 and 25,000 Afghanis to let their trucks return to Pakistan.

After the Taliban takeover, according to customs, no such demands were reported.

Last week, during a meeting of the border liaison committee the trade officer of Afghanistan consulate was informed that more than 2,000 empty vehicles/containers had been stuck on the Afghan side.

According to customs data, the number of returning empty vehicles was 13 at Torkham customs stations and 68 at Chaman, while no vehicle returned to Pakistan at Kharlachi and Ghulam Khan on August 15.

On August 17, 86 empty vehicles returned at Torkham and 16 at Chaman, while no vehicle returned at Kharlachi and Ghulam Khan stations.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2021

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