QUETTA, Oct 20: The flow of Pak-Afghan trade has remained unaffected by the on-going US air raids on Afghanistan and the deployment of American ground troops in Kandahar.

Traders in Chaman reported on Saturday that about 150 trucks loaded with import-export cargo passed the customs checkpost of this border town.

“Normally 150 to 200 trucks of goods pass both ways every day”, Chaudhry Mumtaz Mohammad, the vice president of the Chaman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Dawn by telephone.

He said Afghan traders were sending fresh and dry fruits, timber and scraps to Pakistan, while wheat flour, agricultural machinery, aluminium utensils, cement, mineral water, rice and a host of other items were exported to Afghanistan.

Pakistan and Afghanistan trade about 30 to 40 items two ways under an arrangement in which foreign exchange payment is not involved on either side.

Importers of Afghan goods have to provide Jawaz Nama (justification document) and Ilmo-Khabeer invoice (bill of lading). They have also to meet sales tax requirements. Exporters are not allowed rebate facility.

According to the traders, exports to Afghanistan picked up considerably in the first quarter of the current fiscal year because of demand of cement, medicines, milk powder, motorcycles, agricultural machinery, mineral water, fresh fruits, vegetables, ghee and other items in the country.

The Chaman customs has reported exports worth over one billion rupees during the first quarter of the current fiscal year. During the last fiscal year, total imports from Pakistan were worth Rs2.63 billion.

Customs sources say that their duty collection figures till Oct 13 show a rising trend. The customs collects import duty, income tax and sales. Total duty collection in the first 13 days of the current month amounts to about Rs332,000 as against Rs554,000 collected in October last year.

Customs officials recovered Rs467,000 in July this year, Rs924,000 in August and Rs987,000 in September.

Balochistan Industries and Trade Minister Sardar Mohammad Ali Jogezai told Dawn that trade was absolutely normal and traders on both the sides were meeting their contractual obligations. He said some fluctuations in trade because of demand and supply positions and other factors were normal.

The president of the Chaman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jamauddin, told this correspondent that he visited Kandahar frequently and during his last visit about a week ago “everything was normal.”

Chaman’s population, which is about 300,000, thrives on the border trade. Traders say that people living in Kandahar and its surrounding towns and villages live on the provisions they get from Chaman.

“It is not unusual”, a leader of the Balochistan chamber told Dawn, adding that towns and villages in the Makran division (Turbat, Gwadar and Pasni) got their entire provision from Iran, including fresh vegetables, fruits, flour and rice.

The Chaman customs has a programme to develop border-trade markets with Afghanistan and Iran. Frequent change of governments in Islamabad and a shift in priorities has been the main factor to delay the development of border-trade markets.

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