Silk Route connections bring opportunities for traders in the north

Published December 4, 2023
A Chinese woman visits Gohar Ali Khan’s shop in Tashkurghan to buy handicrafts.—Photo by the writer
A Chinese woman visits Gohar Ali Khan’s shop in Tashkurghan to buy handicrafts.—Photo by the writer

KASHGAR: For those who dwell in the country’s northern parts, the fabled Silk Route — once an international highway of sorts for trade between civilisations in the east and west — is still alive and well today, and holds opportunities for traders from isolated communities in the mountainous regions to connect with their counterparts on the other side of the international border.

China’s Xinjiang province sits the heart of this ancient trade route, connecting to modern-day Pakistan, Afgha­n­is­tan, India, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgy­zstan and Tajikistan.

In the historic city of Kashgar, 400km from Khunjerab, there is a thriving community of Pakistani traders who have taken advantage of the easy visa regime and the facilities extended to residents of Gilgit-Baltistan, to set-up their shops here.

For residents of GB, travel to the Xinjiang region is possible on the basis of a special border pass, issued by the local government.

Gohar Ali Khan from the Shimshal area of Hunza has been living in Tashkurgan, where he owns a shop.

Khan sells Pakistani products including handicrafts, gemstones, dry fruits. He told Dawn that thousands of people, from Hunzais to members of the Wakhi community, have been living in various areas of Xinjiang as the community is present on both sides of the border.

He said that dozens of Pakistani men have businesses set-up in Xinjiang where they are selling Pakistani products.

“The geographical, traditional, lifestyle, music, dresses and food similarities make GB residents feel it is their second home,” he said.

Several Pakistani citizens have also married Chinese women and settled down.

Ali Muhammad, another Pakistani shopkeeper in Tashkurgan, told Dawn the Xinjiang region offers great economic opportunities for the people of GB.

Pakistani handicrafts, gemstones, herbs, fruits, dry fruits and several other Pakistani items are very popular here and Chinese citizens and international tourists who visit Xinjiang offer them oppo­r­tunities to sell products at international prices.

Talking to Dawn, Nasir Hussain Raki, the former GB Chamber of Commerce Pres­ident, said hundreds of Pakist­anis cross the border daily for trade and business purposes.

Wali, originally from Pesh­awar, lives in the old city of Kashi, a famous tourist destination.

Tourism potential

According to Chinese officials, more than 210 million local and foreign tourists visit Xinjiang from January to September and owning to favourable policies, improved infrastructure and promotion of cross-border exchanges, the region has witnessed rapid development.

As the region has captured the tourists attention, Pakis­tani tour operators have also been demanding that the government open the Khun­jerab Pass for tourist travel.

Muhammad Ali from Adve­nture Tours of Pakistan told Dawn that Khunjerab Pass could became one of the most crowded tourist destinations.

“Millions of Chinese visit other countries as tourists and if Chinese tourists are allowed to visit Pakistan through Khunjerab Pass, there would be a boom of tourism in the country,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2023

Opinion

Moral visions

Moral visions

In Pakistan’s current space-time configuration, the language of politics has changed dramatically.

Editorial

Prime minister’s challenge
Updated 04 Mar, 2024

Prime minister’s challenge

Shehbaz should remember that his govt will be walking a tightrope: policy confusion can quickly snowball into a national disaster.
Close to midnight
04 Mar, 2024

Close to midnight

THE Ukraine war has entered its third year, with no signs of a peaceful resolution. If anything, the principal...
Losing history
04 Mar, 2024

Losing history

WHILE we have history strewn all over, the debate around pro-preservation development is not loud enough. Last week,...
Little respite
03 Mar, 2024

Little respite

IS inflation on its way out? The Consumer Price Index showed that inflation dropped to 23.1pc in February from ...
More slaughter
Updated 03 Mar, 2024

More slaughter

Israel’s extremist leaders are on an apocalyptic mission to ethnically cleanse Gaza.
Without VCs
03 Mar, 2024

Without VCs

THE delay in appointing vice chancellors across Pakistan’s universities has mushroomed into a crisis, with one...