Wheat trucks from Wagah to proceed toll-free till Torkham
LAHORE: Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has announced that Afghan trucks carrying wheat from India through Pakistan to the war-torn country would be allowed to pass toll-free.
Islamabad has completed arrangements to facilitate the supply of wheat by India to Afghanistan on humanitarian grounds and assigned the customs department to ensure hassle-free formalities. Under the arrangement, 60 trucks would reach Wagah Border (Lahore) from Afghanistan to further travel to Attari (India) and collect the first consignment of wheat from Indian authorities.
“Under the government’s decision, we will not charge any duty/tax from the Afghan authorities on the collection of wheat from India at Attari border,” a senior customs official told Dawn on Monday.
The Indian government has entered into an agreement with an Afghanistan-based logistics company that would be liable to send empty trucks via Torkham border (Peshawar) to Wagah (Lahore). When entering Pakistan at Torkham, the authorities would carry out a detailed security check of the trucks.
“At Attari, the India authorities would facilitate the unloading of wheat bags from their trucks and loaded onto the Afghan vehicles. The Afghan trucks would then return to Wagah border where Pakistan Rangers would carry out a detailed security check and the customs authorities check the commodity. After clearance, the trucks would be dispatched for Afghanistan via Torkham where they would be checked again,” the officer explained.
In reply a question, he said the Afghan trucks would start collecting wheat (a total of 50,000 tonnes) from Feb 22 and the entire exercise would take a month.
He further said the Afghan authorities had shared the details of identities of drivers (passports, identity cards, etc), the kind of trucks, their manufacturing company, capacity, registration number and other documents with the foreign ministry as well as the respective authorities in India.
“We have also conveyed to the Afghan authorities to ensure installation of tracking devices in all trucks using the Pakistan territory. The drivers would also be issued temporary authorisation certificates by the customs authorities (transit trade department) at Torkham. The authorities would email the barcode on the certificates to the customs authorities at Wagah after checking of which the trucks would be allowed to cross the border,” the official said.
On their way to Afghanistan, the drivers would have to return the certificates to the authorities at Torkham, he added.
To another question, the officer said the convoys would be provided adequate security by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab police on their way to and from Torkham.
When contacted, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the federal cabinet had already permitted India to send 50,000 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan. “In fact, we allowed India to send wheat to the people of war-torn Afghanistan on humanitarian grounds,” he said,
“When we are asking the whole world to help the Afghan people, how can we stop India from doing so?”
The minister claimed that Pakistan had initially blocked transportation of Indian wheat because it carried some disease and had asked New Delhi for its certification.
Syed Irfan Raza in Islamabad also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2022