New rules hinder trade with Afghanistan at Torkham

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PESHAWAR: New rules framed by Pakistan for trade with Afghanistan and tough documentary requirements for traders have slowed down decades-old commerce between the neighboring countries, say traders who are at the receiving end in uneasy political ties between the two sides.

Now, it is mandatory for the traders at Torkham border to produce their National Tax Number, import permission, the certificate of contract between buyers and sellers, payment receipts, grading certificate, certificate from the chamber of commerce and health certificate in case of animals.

As a result of prolonged frosty ties, not a single truck entered into the Khyber Agency through Torkham border for two days in October from the other side of the border.

According to statistics compiled by the Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, goods trade between the two countries dropped $1 billion year-on-year to $1.5 billion in 2016, importer Ahmed Wali Zazai said while talking to The Express Tribune at the border.

“Owing to tense relations and frequent border closures (to cope with security threats), the bilateral trade volume, which was worth $3 billion a couple of years ago, has fallen to just $500 million in early months of 2017,” he said. “It will receive a further jolt if India and Iran step up trade ties with Afghanistan.”

Customs Clearing Agents Association President Hayatullah Shinwari decried that the government enforced new rules and regulations only at the Torkham border crossing, which hampered a smooth flow of goods trade. The rules were not applicable to the Chaman border.

The Customs Department at Torkham has issued a notification, asking importers and exporters to produce proper documents for shipments being received from and sent across the border.

“Since then thousands of shipments have been stranded on both sides; the government should implement a uniform policy for trade with Afghanistan to avoid hurdles,” Shinwari said.

“How is it possible for an Afghan farmer, who have just harvested a potato or tomato crop in Nangarhar province, to sell the produce in Khyber Agency when the Customs has made it mandatory to produce export documents before trade,” asked another clearing agent Nishad Khan Shinwari.

He urged the federal government to look into the matter and announce favourable policies for friendly trade ties with Afghanistan.

All trade and transport associations have demanded that the central government, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor and other relevant authorities consult the stakeholders about the new rules and regulations in order to stave off further slowdown in trade at the border.

To counter the influence of Iran and India, they suggested that Pakistan government should further facilitate and streamline trade with Afghanistan. If the government continued to create hurdles, they feared, Pakistan would lose a market that it had dominated for decades through facilitation measures and giving shelter to millions of Afghan refugees.

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