Pakistan, Afghanistan to discuss trade, smooth flow of movement at Torkham

Published February 27, 2022
This file photo shows a view of the border post in Torkham.—Reuters
This file photo shows a view of the border post in Torkham.—Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Senior officials of Pakistan and Afghanistan will meet at the Torkham border on Monday to discuss issues for smooth flows of trade and pedestrians, largely part of a scheme aimed at enhancing bilateral ties with the landlocked country.

A high-level Pakistani delegation, led by Commerce Adviser Razak Dawood and comprising senior bureaucrats from relevant departments, will meet its Afghan counterpart. National Security Advisor Moeed Yousuf will also accompany the Pakistani delegation.

Since Aug 15, 2021, when the Taliban took over and declared their rule over Afghanistan, Islamabad has offered Kabul — among other humanitarian assistance — waivers of duty and taxes on fresh and dry fruits, vegetables and several other products.

As per official information, the delegation will witness the cross-border movement of pedestrians and vehicles at Torkham border. Huge facilitation in truck movements is expected to increase bilateral trade especially imports from Afghanistan.

Pakistan has already waived additional customs duty and regulatory duty on several items to help the Afghan government generate foreign exchange through exports. At the same time, Pakistan has also expanded the list of essential items exports in rupee to Afghanistan to meet domestic demands.

The scheduled meeting will discuss various important matters related to the smooth movement of people and patients across the border as well as the issuance of temporary admission documents.

Both sides will also discuss an increase in timings of border crossing points, the establishment of joint border infrastructure, training of Afghan nominees for trade related capacity building courses and smooth crossing of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

The delegations will also discuss the time frame for reinitiating the stalled Torkham-Jalalabad road project and the start of luxury bus service between Peshawar-Jalalabad and Quetta-Kandahar.

The Peshawar-Jalalabad motorway concept was given a go-ahead in October 2016. However, the National Highway Authority has not made any progress on this core strategic project. The total length of the motorway is 281 kilometres which includes the Peshawar-Torkham (50km) and Torkham-Jalalabad (76km) stretches.

On January 22, Pakistan allowed the export of another 14 items to Afghanistan in rupees via land routes owing to the non-availability of tradable currency through banking channels. The decision will also help the Taliban-led regime continue the import of essential food items from Pakistan until the West recognises their government.

Currently, exports of fruits and vegetables, dairy products and meat are allowed in Pak rupee. It is expected that the export of 14 products will help to revive exports to Afghanistan which fell to the lowest level since the Taliban takeover followed by Western countries’ sanctions on Kabul.

Exports from Pakistan to Afghanistan have declined from $517.24 million in the first half year of FY21 to $328.25m during July-December of FY22. However, imports post a substantial growth during the months under review.

In 2002, the then government of President Pervez Musharraf had decided to facilitate exporters and get more market for Pakistani products in Afghanistan. As a result, SRO-31 of 2002 was issued to allow exports against Pakistani rupee. Exports to Afghanistan stood at $386.67m in 2002-03.

As a result of that decision, Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan rose to $2.5bn in 2014-15. Statistic of exports proceeds suggests that Afghanistan has emerged as the second-largest export destination for Pakistan after the United States.

However, this facility was later discontinued on pressure from external and internal sides.

Pakistan’s exporters have approached the Ministry of Commerce with a long list of other exportable items to allow its exports against the rupee. However, the Economic Coordination Committee has not approved the proposal in its last meeting.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2022

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