PESHAWAR: The traders associated with the Afghan Transit Trade and transporters have expressed different views over the prevailing situation on the transit trade routes in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KPCCI) President Zahidullah Shinwari raised concern over the situation saying that the political leaders should have taken the stakeholders into confidence before launching the blockade which has caused hardships for the local exporters and transporters.
“We have nothing to do with politics. Our concern is the safety of the export consignments and trade that are the lifeline for the local industry and population,” he said.
Zahidullah Shinwari rebuked the mob that broke off seals of the guaranteed transit containers, saying, “Due to such issues, the bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan plummeted by 50 per cent,” adding that major portion of the $2.5b trade consists of transit trade that was being badly affected by unstable environment.
“The recent blockades have sent out a wrong message to the investors and traders. It shows as to what could happen to their consignments on the roads passing through our province. It is a bad omen for the local trade prospects”, he argued.
All international regulations and accords should be honoured and local exports and commercial transit consignments should not be blocked as part of politics, he added.
However, ATT Association President Gul Afzal Khan Shinwari said that the activists did not stop the containers and trailers of transit and local goods. “Transit trade and local goods like cement, steel, flour, paints, etc smoothly travelled and entered Afghanistan,” he said.
He said that the blockade of the Nato supplies carriers at Peshawar did not lead to any mentionable nuisance for the transporters carrying local exports and transit trade goods as the border crossing had already been closed.
He said that the border was sealed soon after a suicide attack on the Customs officials on November 21. It was reopened and over 100 waiting vehicles crossed the border at Torkham, he added.
The continuous road blockades by political parties and strikes by transporters were painful for Director of Afghanistan Pakistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (APJCCI), Ziaul Haq Sarhadi. He said that 80 per cent of the transit trade had already been shifted to the Bandar Abbas port in Iran while the remaining 20 per cent has also been put in jeopardy by these incidents.
He maintained that the new transit trade agreement signed in 2010 had already rendered thousands of customs clearing agents, truckers and others jobless while few bonded carriers of transit goods would also lose the source of their earning if such blockades continued.
“They stopped our trucks on Sunday, manhandled the drivers and broke seals of the commercial transit containers,” Sarhadi said. If the seal of a transit container is broken a criminal case is registered against the drivers, he stressed. He said the entire dealing of transit trade is carried out online and the drivers possess only a few travel documents showing no specific details of the consignment.
Transportation of transit and local goods exports to Afghanistan has come to a virtual standstill for little less than one month after the two-week long strike by bonded carriers in Karachi and now the subsequent blockade, Sarhadi said.