Traders along the Pak-Afghan border are happy as bilateral trade is flourishing despite Taliban takeover and call it a “blessing in disguise.”
The Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement, signed in 2010, was extended last month by former president Ashraf Ghani.
“Even though Ghani has now fled the country, the Taliban have allowed transit trade to flow across Pak-Afghan border crossings,” said Haji Jabir Shinwari, the senior vice president of the Khyber Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“As a result of Taliban’s permission, trade activities at Spin Boldak, Chaman and Torkham, have picked up momentum,” Shinwari told news channel Geo.
He called the Taliban takeover a “blessing in disguise”, explaining that it is a win-win situation for traders on both sides.
“Earlier, traders had to pay dual toll taxes,” he said and added, “one tax was paid to the Afghan government and the other to the Taliban. Now we have to only pay the Taliban.”
Shinwari said that the Afghan government officials would also ask traders for bribes ranging from Rs70,000 to Rs100,000. Since the Taliban have taken over, bribes have stopped.
Under the trade agreement, Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan include cereals, fruits, pharmaceutical products, wood, plastics, iron and steel, amongst others things. The agreement also provides for Afghan exports to India using the border between Pakistan and India.
Meanwhile, members of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry have also expressed optimism about trade during the Taliban rule.
Chamber’s secretary general Faiza said that Taliban’s spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid’s first press conference was positive, where he stressed that economic progression is an important focus for the new regime.
The secretary general added that a few weeks ago the trucks crossing the border points had dropped from 400 to 40 per day. In the last two or three days, the number of trucks is back up to 400.
However, she added that the long-term prospects of the Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement still seem unclear. The Agreement, which was extended in July, is set to expire in November.
“Currently, the transit trade volume between Pakistan and Afghanistan hovers at around $1 billion annually. Whether this volume goes up or goes down, time will tell,” Faiza said.