Border facilitation

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PRIME Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday formally inau
gurated the opening of the Torkham border crossing for 24
hours a day and 07 days a week, describing it as historic moment in view of the significance and impact of the measure. Speaking on the occasion, he said round-the-clock opening of the border crossing will go a long way in facilitating trade in the region.
There has been resistance from Afghan side to moves by Pakistan to regulate and streamline border crossings and that is why we witnessed some unfortunate incidents as well during implementation of plan by Pakistan to effectively manage the border. However, 24/7 opening of Torkham border crossing is reflection of sincerity and goodwill of Pakistan for Afghan people. The arrangement has been completed at a fast pace after a request was made by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for easing of trade between the two countries. Previously, the crossing remained operational for 12 hours only, which created disruption for truckers on either side and a difficult situation for patients that could not cross the border overnight. It is important to note that the opening was accompanied by inauguration of Friendship Hospital at Torkham where Afghan patients would be provided treatment, which is yet another gesture of goodwill for Afghan people and conveys a message that Pakistan cares much for them. Pak-Afghan trade suffered setbacks in recent years for various reasons and in this backdrop the 24-hour border opening would go a long way in facilitating businessmen. Already, trade activities jumped by almost 50% during trial period of the new arrangement and the Prime Minister has rightly pointed out that the arrangement would help boost regional trade once peace is restored in troubled Afghanistan. We may also point out that Torkham and Chaman are symbolic and formal crossings whereas thousands of people cross the border on either side daily without any regulation and there are also reports of rampant smuggling going on through different routes. This necessitates completion of the entire border management programme including the one in Balochistan to reap the real benefits and plug damages to Pak economy. There should be unqualified cooperation from Afghanistan going by the fact that Afghan Government and politicians have been showing sensitivity to the issue of sovereignty and border management would ensure upholding of that sovereignty. The situation would change for the better for people living on both sides of Pak-Afghan border if the United States responds positively to the proposal of Pakistan for reactivation of the plan for establishment of ROZs in the border areas that could stimulate growth, development and job creation in the otherwise backward regions. Hopefully, the issue would be raised with Washington during visit of the Prime Minister to the United States.

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