Pakistan says it will build modern land ports this year at the two main border crossings with Afghanistan to speed movement of goods and people.
After extensive talks with Afghan officials in Kabul, visiting Pakistani Commerce Minister Khuram Dastagir Khan said they made good progress on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement and "the progress is going to accelerate in the months to come.”
Acting Afghan Commerce Minister Muzamil Shinwari said he hopes the talks would help overcome hurdles in fully implementing the APTTA, which is meant to facilitate landlocked Afghanistan to import and export its goods through Pakistani trade routes and ports.
Kahn told reporters the new land ports will be equipped with modern communication systems to help enhance bilateral connectivity in terms of customs and information technology.
“This year we are going to see ground broken on Torkham and Chaman and you will see that there will be a quantum shift in the kind of facilitation that would be offered. They will really bring a quantum jump in how trade is conducted,” Khan said.
Torkham is located in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhaw Province while Chaman is in southwestern Baluchistan province. Officials estimate more than 50,000 Afghans move cross the border daily in addition to trade convoys.
Afghan traders have long complained that despite assurances, Pakistan has not taken steps to speed up processing of documents and related-issues causing unnecessary delays in the trading activities.
Pakistan allows Afghan trucks to transport goods up to the border with India, but it has not yet allowed for Indian products to be exported to Afghanistan under APTTA.
When asked whether Pakistan would allow that to happen soon, Minister Khan said his country has “the fullest desire” to integrate India in the partnership agreement, but bilateral tensions are causing the hurdle.
“The relationship [between Pakistan and India] has been tense over the past year. First, we have to see when it is possible to normalize Pakistan and India’s trade relationship, because it is not normalize yet. But as that relationship normalizes then of course the doors for Afghan trade will open.”