On Thursday, Pakistan and Afghanistan held a daylong meeting on the joint border to discuss various issues relating to transit trade, including the pending clearance of goods. However, despite regular meetings to facilitate the smooth operation of bilateral and trade on both sides of the border, core issues remain unaddressed, and many initiatives have been stalled, raising concerns over the persistence of these lags.
Reports reveal that during the meeting, the Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI) Director Ziaul Haq Sarhadi demanded taking stakeholders into confidence on the 2010 agreement of the transit trade, which was facing delay in implementation. The operationalisation of this trade agreement has been facing hurdles for the better part of a decade, and it is imperative that it be implemented at the earliest, otherwise the business and cross-border communities would face significant problems.
It is high time that these roadblocks are addressed as these delays reflect negatively on the stakeholders on both sides of the border, and points towards a system of operations that is not functioning properly to the detriment of the two countries. There are other major delays too, such as the construction of the new terminal at the Torkham Border, resulting in many shipments and goods being stuck.
It is good to see that the two sides discussed key issues and concerns regarding the transport cost of cargo, streamlining of visa issuing processes, and other logistical accommodations. The hope now is that these matters are expedited and acted upon, instead of being brought up once again at the next stakeholder meeting.
The suggestion to arrange a meeting of businessmen on a fortnightly basis to take review of the issues facing should be pursued, and instead taken a step further by including key members and groups from the cross-border communities too. There is a lot of untapped potential here for both the countries, and a lot can be done for the cross-border communities that have suffered immensely over the past two decades due to war and unrest. To realise any of this, however, we first and foremost need a concrete plan and efficient implementation mechanisms.