Three Afghan-Pakistan borders set to reopen for trade
According to Pakistan media, the border crossings are Torkham, Chaman, and Ghulam Khan, which have mostly been closed since March as part of broad-based lockdown measures by both countries amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
Dawn news reported on Saturday that a notification issued late Friday night by the Pakistan Ministry of Interior stated: “I am directed to refer to this ministry’s letter of even no dated May 1, 2020, on the subject cited above and to convey that competent authority has approved management of Afghan transit/bilateral trade and pedestrian movement along Pak-Afghan border with effect from June 22.”
The notification stated the planned opening would be for import and export traffic and an “unlimited number of trucks will be allowed per day for both Afghan transit and bilateral trade: while ensuring all COVID-19-related standard operating procedures and protocols” are followed.
According to the report, trade traffic will be allowed to transit six days a week, except Saturday. On that day the borders will be open for pedestrian traffic.
“Saturday will be reserved for pedestrian movement only at Torkham, Chaman and Ghulam Khan border terminals”, the notification read.
Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Atif Mashal, who confirmed to Xinhua news that the crossings would reopen for trade, said this means Afghan traders will be able to resume the export of their fresh produce.
“It is the peak time for Afghan exports of fresh fruits and vegetables as both are now ready for export,” Mashal said.
In addition, a Pakistani official in North Waziristan, told Xinhua, that officials of the two countries had agreed on procedures and regulations for the cross-border trade in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Officials reportedly agreed that truck drivers and all involved in the cross-border trade will follow strict standard operating procedures to contain the spread of the virus and that drivers will undergo tests at the quarantine centers established on both sides of the border.
This move comes just days after Afghan traders raised their concerns over the continued trade restrictions which they said had caused them huge losses.
Earlier this week, the Afghan Traders’ Union chairman, Omaid Haidari, told Anadolu Agency that the border closures had cost Afghan traders more than US$100 million.
He also stated that while Afghan traders had been barred from entering Pakistan amid the Coronavirus outbreak, Pakistan continued to export goods to Afghanistan.
Haidari said that hundreds of trucks loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables destined for Pakistan and India had been stranded for months at the main Chaman and Torkham border crossings.