Pak-Afghan trade resumes as Chaman border reopens

Published November 3, 2021
A file view of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border at Chaman. — APP
A file view of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border at Chaman. — APP

QUETTA: Pakistani and Afghan authorities reopened the Chaman border on Tuesday after nearly a month, allowing goods transport and citizens of both countries to cross after clearance from security and customs officials.

The Chaman crossing — a major transit point for truckers moving fruit exports from the southern Afghan city of Kandahar — reopened after a final round of talks between Pakistani and Afghan authorities at Spin Buldak on Monday evening.

The Taliban authorities in Kandahar had closed the border on October 5, without informing the Pakistani border authorities on the issue of border crossing without travel documents.

Chaman and Kandahar residents allowed to cross the border on showing identity, travel papers, says official

Heavy cement blocks and boulders placed at the entry points were removed on Tuesday morning as the border remained open from 8am till 5pm without break.

“The border is opened to all kind of traffic and the people for crossing into Pakistan and Afghanistan,” a senior security border official said. He explained that Afghan authorities removed all huge cement blocks and other barricades they had put on the border to facilitate border crossing without any hurdle.

Several thousand Pakistani and Afghan citizens who were waiting to return to their countries crossed the border after completing the procedure agreed upon by the authorities on the two sides. “Crossing of border is allowed on showing Afghan national identity cards (Terkeera) and Pakistan CNIC, belonging to Chaman and Kandahar,” the immigration officials said, adding that a large number of people from both sides crossed the border.

With the reopening of Chaman border, Afghan transit trade resumed as trucks carrying goods were allowed to cross after clearance. “Hundreds of trucks crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan and into Afghan areas after customs clearance,” customs officials told Dawn.

Both countries were deprived of millions of rupees of customs duty and other taxes due to the border closure for 27 days.

Several rounds of talks between officials of the two sides had been held in Chaman and Spin Buldak, but remained fruitless as Kandahar Governor Yousaf Wafa insisted that Afghan nationals be allowed to cross into Pakistan without travel documents.

Thousands of Pakistanis and Afghan citizens, including patients, were stranded on both sides of the border while all trade between the two countries, including Afghan transit trade, also suffered. Hundreds of trucks carrying goods, including fresh fruits and vegetable, were stuck due to the month-long closure of the Chaman crossing.

Members of business and trade community had staged several protests during the past month against the closure. Even traffic on the Quetta-Chaman National Highway had been blocked to press the authorities to reopen one of the main Pak-Afghan border crossings.

Vice president of Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry Imran Khan Kakar welcomed the decision to reopen the border at Chaman and said people involved in trade between Pakistan and Afghan­istan had suffered losses of millions of rupees during the past 27 days.

He disclosed that business leaders had also participated along with Pakistani border authorities in the final round of talks in Spin Buldak.

The reopening should come as a relief to the Taliban government in Kabul, which desperately needs the customs revenues from the border posts. Its cash-strapped economy has few other legitimate sources of foreign revenue, adds Reuters.

As Afghanistan has sunk deeper into economic crisis, with the abrupt withdrawal of foreign aid following the Taliban victory in August, Pakistani officials have been increasingly concerned by the prospect of a new wave of refugees.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2021

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