Staff Report Islamabad
Trade and economic connectivity is of prime significance for Pakistan and Afghanistan, both countries should work together to eliminate the key challenges faced by traders at the border crossing points.
These remarks were made by the delegation of Afghan traders invited by Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) while discussing the situation in Afghanistan, significance of economic connectivity for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the hindrances in trade, and the solutions to the problems faced by traders on both sides.
This was the first trade delegation from Afghanistan which arrived through the Torkham border point, to try and address the many economic connectivity challenges faced by said traders.
These experts included Members of the National Assembly Yaqoob Shaikh, Shandana Gulzar, Gul Dad Khan, and Sajid Khan, Deputy Director National Assembly Raheem Khan, and a ten-member delegation of Afghan traders including key stakeholders like Co-president Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI) Khan Jan Alokozai, Executive Director PAJCCI Naqeebullah Safi, an eminent businesspersons Ajmal Safi, Ahmad Yarzada, Sultan Safi, Babrak Akbare, Baz Muhammad Afsarzai, and Mukhlis Ahmad Yunas.
The conversation revolved around the core problems hindering bilateral and transit trade between the two countries, and the potential solutions to those problems.
Highlighting the issues hindering bilateral trade between the two countries, Mr. Khan Jan Alokozai, co-president PAJCCI, stated that currently, when all the international funds allocated to Afghanistan are frozen, Pakistan should help the neighbor by continuing to engage in trade with Afghanistan and especially by continuing to import goods from Afghanistan.
He also briefed the Pakistani stakeholders about the infrastructural weaknesses which lead not only to congestion at the Torkham border crossing point, but also hinder the bilateral and transit trade.
He also requested Pakistan for relaxations in the visa regime, especially for traders and medical patients.
Expressing distress over the problems faced by Afghan traders, MNA Yaqoob Sheikh guaranteed the Afghan delegation that Pakistan will stand with their Afghan brothers in this hard time.
He emphasized that traders are neutral actors and can play a significant role not only in promoting regional economic connectivity, but also in improving the bilateral ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Adding to the conversation, Mr. Ajmal Safi, Board Member Kunar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, added that State Bank of Pakistan’s rejection of the Electronic Import Form (EIF) will eventually minimize imports from Afghanistan to zero.
Elucidating the participants about the factors leading to congestion at border crossing points, he stated that the major reason behind the congestion is poor scanning procedures at the border crossing points due to the presence of a small number of scanners.
He suggested that scanning capacity should be enhanced, and the scanners should be located few kilometers away from the zero point to avoid over-crowding.
Thanking CRSS for inviting the delegation from Afghanistan at such a crucial time, MNA Shandana Gulzar stated that the Pakistan government under the leadership of PM Imran Khan wants to have strong relations with Afghani-stan especially in the trade sector.
She assured the Afghan delegates that their concerns will be tabled to the Speaker National Assembly, the chair of Pak-Afghan Friendship Group (PAFG) and will be addressed by the relevant authorities at the earliest.
The group concluded the meeting on the point that at this stage, Pakistan’s should formulate and implement busi-ness-friendly policies, along with renegotiating APPTA 2010, on an immediate basis while taking into consideration the role of the private sector, as enhancing trade is a way to help Afghanistan in these testing times.
Improving the flow of trade and promoting economic connectivity is the only way for both the countries to prosper.