For the first time in the country’s history, a trading terminal has been set up along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan which will remain operable round the clock. The potential this first terminal has for lifting the trade and economy of the country is immense, particularly when coupled with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Our leaders have always boasted of making Pakistan an Asian Tiger – borrowing a term from four other Asian economies which grew at high rates on the back of rapid industrialisation in the 1970s and 1980s – but have so far failed to exploit its true potential, for one reason or another.
Unlike the other Asian countries, Pakistan constantly finds itself in the throes of massive debt as well as an imbalance of payments which, in layman’s terms, means we are buying more from than we are selling. This is particularly evident from our trade with our immediate neighbours. Pakistan’s total worth of exports to its four bordering countries – including India, Afghanistan, Iran and China – is a mere $3.7 billion. This is a fraction of Pakistan’s total annual exports standing at something around Rs30 billion. Needless to say, that this is an underserved area which, if focused upon, can resolve the economic problems of the country to a large extent. In this context, opening up a cargo and trade terminal on our western border with Afghanistan — our second-largest regional trade partner — which is to remain open round the clock will immensely boost our trade potential.
Inaugurating the trade terminal the other day, PM Imran Khan expressed the hope that it would “increase the trade with Afghanistan by 50% to $3.5 billion annually.” Most importantly, it will help Pakistan grant access to the lucrative markets of Central Asia, and from there, to Europe. This trade corridor is also beneficial for the fast-developing CPEC and forms a critical land route for Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This is a welcome, albeit a grossly late, first step towards a brighter economic future of the country. We must now look to replicate it further at Torkham, at Chaman and even at the Zahedan and Khunjerab borders.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2019.
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