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Businessmen call for opening of Pak, Afghan border

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ISLAMABAD, MAR 13 (DNA) – “On behalf of the Afghan business community, let me affirm that we are entirely in favor of doing business with Pakistan since we share the same religion, language and culture.

 However, the abrupt closing of the Pak-Afghan border by Pakistan leaves Afghanistan to look towards other countries which are equally willing to engage in trade with Afghanistan,” said Mr. Ahmad Shah Yarzada, a member of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI), during the meeting of Pakistan-Afghanistan Business/ Trade Delegations as part of Beyond Boundaries II, a track I.5/II dialogue series undertaken by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in partnership with Afghan counterpart Women Peace and Security Organization (WPSO) to foster better understanding and cooperation between the two neighbors, soothe bitter context and address the trust deficit between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A six-member Afghan delegation from ACCI arrived from Kabul to meet with representatives from Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PAJCCI) and the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI). The meeting focused on the early restoration of the bilateral and transit trade by both business chambers on each side of the border, particularly at Torkham and Chaman, and the difficulties arising out of the abrupt closure of Af-Pak border on February 17, 2017.

The joint delegation took note with grave concern that the border had been closed for 5 times during the short span of approximately 8 months since June 2016. Officials from both sides cited figures of losses incurred by the business communities of both countries since the recent closure of Af-Pak border.

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. Both sides reiterated the significance of national sanctity and security and supported all measures that respective Governments may take to ensure the same. However, the same may not be continued at the beset of hurting the economic and social ties across the border through measures such as abrupt closure of the border for an indefinite period resulting in massive monetary losses and trust deficit. Currently, 3000 containers in Peshawar and 2000 containers near Chaman border are standing filled with cargo and unable to pass due to border closure. They also urged both governments to honor their commitments on bilateral and transit agreements.

The two delegations also discussed the possible formation of a joint committee comprising private sector and think tanks from both countries which should act as an advisory mechanism that both Governments should consult before taking drastic measures such as closure of border or revision of economic policies. This committee could act as an economic and confidence building catalyst to ensure further enhancement of bilateral trade, rejuvenate regional linkages and promote joint investments.

Members also further resolved to urge the Ministry of Commerce for a possible waiver of any applicable port charges, whether detention or demurrage, applied to Afghan consignments and containers which accrued from the closure of the border in a bid to limit the monetary losses of the business communities of both countries.

Mr. Muhammad Zuhair Motiwala, President and Chairman of PAJCCI, insisted on a complete segregation of business and politics, stating that there was no differences between the business communities of Pakistan and Afghanistan as both wished to do business with each other.

Abrupt sealing of the Pak-Afghan border not only hinders bilateral trade but also affects the confidence of the two countries’ business communities to engage in business with each other. Ishtiaq Baig, Vice President of FPCCI was of the view that there were many misperceptions due to which closing of the border was being linked with reduction in terrorism. Mixing the two would merely create more problems.

Earlier, the two groups met with Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal at Afghan Embassy in Islamabad. He appreciated that the meeting was an important and timely initiative taken by CRSS to bring the business communities and chambers of the two countries together.

 






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