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9,000 goods containers held up for months by Pakistani officials

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(Last Updated On: September 7, 2020)

As Pakistan’s trade with Afghanistan continues to decline another problem has reared its head – that of about 9,000 containers loaded with goods worth more than $400 million stuck at Pakistani ports. 

Bloomberg reported Monday that these containers have been held up for about five months. There are two reasons for this, the report stated. 

Firstly customs officials are screening all the cargo instead of the five percent they used to check before the COVID-19 outbreak and secondly because not all trucks have GPS trackers – which are mandatory to stop theft and to ensure the containers don’t go missing along Taliban controlled routes. 

However, the company tasked to install trackers refuted these claims. 

Ghulam Nayab, commercial consular at the Afghanistan consulate in Karachi told Bloomberg that “transit consignments that landed in June are still lying at Karachi port,” said Nayab.

South Asia Pakistan Terminal, the nation’s biggest and deepest container terminal, alone has a backlog of 1,600 boxes, according to Rashid Jamil, chief executive officer of SAPT, a unit of Hutchison Port Holdings.

This, according to Bloomberg, is eroding Pakistan’s trade surplus to Afghanistan even further as a sharp decline has been recorded over the past three years. 

In this time, Pakistani exports to Afghanistan have dropped more than 40 percent in the three years that ended in June, to $889 million, according to official data. 

Bilateral trade stood at $1.01 billion last fiscal year, down more than 38 percent from $1.64 billion in fiscal 2018, reported Bloomberg.

Afghanistan meanwhile has tried to push for quicker clearance of these containers and also requested that Pakistan waive the demurrage and detention charges, which range from $120 to $200 a day, according to Nayab’s letter to the Pakistani customs office.

“Traders are losing millions of dollars because of shipping and port demurrages,” Nayab said.

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Pakistan to set up markets along Afghanistan-Pakistan border

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(Last Updated On: September 18, 2020)

Pakistan has decided to establish 18 markets along the Pakistan-Iran and Pakistan-Afghanistan borders, Pakistan government said.

Pakistan’s government would establish the markets aimed at boosting trade with the two countries and preventing the menace of smuggling.

The decision was made during a high-level meeting chaired by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday, Khan’s office said in a statement.

“The meeting was told that twelve border markets will be established on the Pak-Afghan border while six border markets will be established on the Pak-Iran border,” the statement read.

“The Prime Minister has approved the establishment of two border market in Balochistan Province and one border market in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as a pilot project which will be completed and activated by February.”

Imran Khan’s Office noted that the decision to take more effective measures regarding the prevention of smuggling through borders

Talking about the establishment of border markets, the Prime Minister said that the establishment of markets where the population on border areas, especially youth, will get better business and trade opportunities, will come after fencing on the borders, the statement added.

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Kabul, Tehran review cooperation, agree to draw up new strategy

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(Last Updated On: September 16, 2020)

Iran and Afghanistan have agreed to draw up a comprehensive strategic economic document on bilateral cooperation, the head of Iran’s Customs Administration (IRICA) said.

According to Mehdi Mirashrafi, IRICA chief, “facilitating trade, exchanging customs information, solving border problems and developing transit are on the agenda of Iran and Afghanistan.” 

Speaking to journalists after a video conference with Afghan officials, Mirashrafi said: “The two sides decided to prepare a comprehensive strategic economic document, considering the determinations of the two countries for strategic cooperation.”

Tehran Times reported that on the activation of the Iran-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Tripartite Transit Corridor and the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Iran (KTAI) Quadripartite Corridor, Mirashrafi said: “This trend shows the serious determination of the Iranian Customs to facilitate transit through Afghanistan and connect Central Asian countries to international waters through the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.”

He also said Chabahar Port was one of the major issues discussed in the meeting.

“The port of Chabahar is an important and vital port for Afghanistan in the field of transit of goods through Iran, and accordingly, the Afghan side has demanded reducing visa fees and transit fees and reconsidering the penalties for customs violations in the transit route through Iran.”

The Chabahar seaport has been a vital development in Afghanistan’s efforts to increase connectivity with the region for trade purposes. 

The port is partly intended to provide an alternative for trade between India and Afghanistan as it is 800 kilometers closer to the border of Afghanistan than Pakistan’s Karachi port.

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Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan drop by 43.6% in July

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(Last Updated On: September 14, 2020)

Pakistan’s exports of goods and services to Afghanistan dropped by 43.61 percent in July against the same period last year, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reported. 

According to Pakistan’s The Nation, exports totaled $61.25 million this July against exports to the value of $108.64 last year. 

Imported products from Afghanistan also dropped by 56.7 percent from $9.7 million last July to $4.2 million this year. 

SBP also reported an overall decline in exports to other countries in the same period. In July exports dropped by 14.57 percent from $2.2 billion to $1.89 billion. 

Much of this could be attributed to the closure of all Pakistan’s borders in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Only in June did Pakistan start opening borders again with Afghanistan. 

Three key trade routes — Chaman, Torkham, and Ghulam Khan border crossings opened but had to deal with major backlogs. 

Pakistan and Afghanistan share 18 crossing points. The most commonly used ones are Torkham and Chaman.

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