Af-Pak traders demand reopening of border; appreciate CRSS efforts for dialogue

A delegation of traders from both Afghanistan and Pakistan met in Islamabad to discuss issues of mutual interest and on-going tensions between both the countries. The delegations not only discussed the negative impact of Pakistan’s Torkham border closure, but also called upon the Pakistani government to reopen the border crossing with immediate effect.

A six-member delegation of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, or ACCI, visiting Islamabad, met with Pakistani counterparts on Monday to discuss problems and damages the border closure has caused

The delegations met as part of Beyond Boundaries- a CRSS led project focusing on Afghanistan Pakistan Tack 1.5/2 diplomacy – to discuss difficulties arising out of the abrupt closure of Af-Pak border on February 17, 2017. The meeting took note with grave concern that the border has been closed for 5 times during the short span of approximately 8 months since June 2016. The latest closure comes at a time of high diplomatic tensions between both the countries.

The group members comprised of representatives from private and business sectors of both the countries and reiterated and understood the need for maintaining border security. Yet they also emphasized that measures to ensure security may not be continued at the beset of hurting the economic and social ties across the border, such a sudden closure of borders.

Keeping in view this situation, the forum highly urged both Governments:

  • To immediately open the border for the clearance of stranded cargo from port to borders and restart the border trade activities.
  • To consult a joint committee, formulated at the level of a forum, comprising private sector and think tanks from both countries. The committee should act as an advisory mechanism which the Governments may consult for advice before taking extreme measures such as closure of borders or revision of economic policies in general. Having such a committee would ensure that business activities don’t come to a halt in case of adverse circumstances.
  • To urge both Governments to honor their commitments on bilateral and transit agreement.
  • To urge the Ministry of Commerce for a possible waiver of any applicable port charges applied to Afghan consignments / containers accruing from the closure of the border to limit the monetary losses of the business community.

This committee would as help in further improving the bilateral trade, rejuvenate regional linkages, promote joint investments. Representatives from both countries unanimously agreed to call on the Government of Pakistan to immediately open the border for the clearance of stranded cargo from port to borders.

Currently, 3,000 containers in Peshawar and 2,000 containers near Chaman border are standing filled with cargo and unable to pass due to the border closure. They also urged both governments to honour their commitments on bilateral and transit agreements.

The overall environment and mood in the meeting was positive with both sides favouring an increase in business activity and mutual business ties.

Ahmad Shah Yarzada, a member from the Afghan delegation, said “On behalf of the Afghan business community, let me affirm that we are entirely in favour of doing business with Pakistan since we share the same religion, language and culture,”.  Yarzada further argued that the “abrupt” border closing is forcing his landlocked country “to look towards other countries, which are equally willing to engage in trade with Afghanistan.”

Members of the Pakistani delegation said they shared Afghan concerns and called on the Pakistanis government to reopen the border without further delay. The delegation also appreciated the efforts put in by CRSS and WPSO to connect people from  both sides.

The dialogue was organized by the Center for Research and Security Studies in partnership with the Kabul-based Women, Peace and Security organization.

(Beyond Boundaries brings together influential government and non-governmental stake-holders who can help lessen tensions, address misconceptions, and revive bilateral confidence building measures. More information can be found at www.crss.pk)

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