ISLAMABAD, May 16 (Xinhua) — Pakistan has decided to open its border crossings with Afghanistan for 24 hours a day and 6 days a week to facilitate cross-border trade, which has been affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic in both countries, local media reported Saturday.
The National Command and Operation Center, a high level body leading the country’s fight against the COVID-19, took the decision of opening the Torkham and Chaman crossings with Afghanistan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, reports said, quoting a notification issued on Friday by the Interior Ministry of Pakistan.
Torkham border will remain open for 24 hours a day and 6 days a week (except Saturday) for cross-border trade and unlimited number of trucks will be allowed per day while ensuring proper standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines for both the bilateral trade and Afghan transit trade, the reports said, adding that similar directives were also issued for the Chaman border.
The notification said Saturdays will be reserved for pedestrian move only and the SOPs as applicable for air passengers will be implemented for pedestrians as well, according to the reports.
Pakistan had closed border with Afghanistan, but announced in April to open the two border crossing points thrice a week to facilitate cargo trucks and containers to enter Afghanistan. However, Afghan traders say that thousands of their containers of transit goods are stuck at the Karachi port, causing them financial losses.
Pakistani and Afghan traders welcomed the newest decision and hoped that it will ensure smooth cross-border trade activities.
Ahmad Shah Yarzada, an Afghan importer and member of the Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said traders and businessmen in both countries have been demanding opening of the crossing points as their closure had badly affected trade activities.
“The step taken by Pakistan to open the border is a very good step,” Yarzada told Xinhua on Saturday.
“In order to avoid the spread of COVID-19, all the necessary steps were taken by the Afghan side as per the mechanism prepared by Commerce Ministry of Afghanistan and shared with government of Pakistan,” Yarzada said.
A traders’ body in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also hailed the decision and said it will ensure speedy clearance of containers, besides removal of hurdles to bilateral trade and transit trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, president of the Frontier Customs Agents Association, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said the opening of Torkham border for 6 days and round the clock for cross-border trade will remove obstacles in the way of Pak-Afghan trade and transit trade and will give further boost to mutual trade volume between the two neighboring countries.
Pakistan and landlocked Afghanistan had signed a transit trade agreement in 1965 that was revised in 2010. Afghans traders have also been allowed to import goods via the Gwadar port in southwest Balochistan province besides using ports in Karachi, the commercial hub of Pakistan. Enditem