GILGIT: Gilgit-Baltistan traders have shut their businesses as they have gone on strike against the suspension of trade with China since April.

The traders’ bodies, GB Importers and Exporters Association and GB Chamber of Commerce and Industries warned that they would block the Karakoram Highway at Sost if their demands were not met by Ashura.

While addressing a press conference at the Gilgit Press Club on Monday, GB Importers and Exporters Association president Muhammad Iqbal and GB Chamber of Commerce president Imran Ali said trade between Pakistan and China through the Khunjerab Pass has been suspended since April 1, after it was reopened following a four-month-long closure.

Senior traders Johar Ali Raki, Basharat Bhutt, Iqbal Pathan, Muhammad Ali Qauid and other businessmen were also present at the press conference.

Local business leaders seek relaxation of income, sales tax on imported items

The suspension of trade activities since April has left locals without jobs as they rely on cross-border trade to earn a living in the absence of industries or private sector jobs in the area.

The business leaders claimed that consignments imported from China had been stuck at the Sost Dry port since April due to Customs clearance issues.

They alleged that Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) wrong policies have resulted in the suspension of trade.

According to the business leaders, income tax and sales tax are not applicable on imported items for GB residents.

Under the border agreement between Pakistan and China, there is no tax on GB residents for barter trade. They demanded re­­laxa­tion of income and sales taxes collected and sought a 20 per cent land route valuation concession on imported goods for locals.

They said the same is already being provided to traders in Quetta and other areas of Pakistan.

According to them, there is no tax on goods worth 20,000 yuan in China, and the same relaxation should be introduced here.

They also warned of possible legal challenges in court against officials’ decisions.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2024

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