ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan accused Pakistan of violating the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement 2010 (APTTA) as the Afghan authorities blamed that Islamabad was denying its cargo, access to Wagah border and seaports.
The issue was raised on Thursday during a meeting of the Transit Trade Coordination Authority – a body established to settle disputes arising out of implementation of bilateral transit trade treaty.
According to officials of the Afghanistan embassy, Pakistan was restricting its cargo to Peshawar, which was a violation of the treaty.
Article 3 of the treaty stipulates that there will be freedom of transit through the territory of each contracting party via predetermined routes. Under the APTTA – an improved version of the 1963 bilateral treaty – Afghanistan’s cargo can go up to Wagah border and to Karachi seaports – Karachi Port and Bin Qasim Port.
The officials said that unlike Pakistan the Afghan authorities were allowing the Pakistani cargo to go to any point. The Afghan people were putting pressure on the government to review its decision of giving free access to Pakistan’s cargo until Islamabad resolves the issue, said the officials, suggesting that Kabul may also retaliate.
The justification the Pakistani authorities had given was that they have not yet prepared the mechanism to regulate the cargo movement, said the consulate officials.
According to an official of the Afghan commerce ministry the deputy economic minister of Afghanistan raised the issue of restrictions on Afghan cargo in Pakistan. The official said that the deputy minister requested that Afghanistan’s vehicles carrying fresh fruits should be allowed to go up to Wagah border to cross into India.
The commerce ministry official added that both sides agreed that loose cargo can be carried through road across the border for one year as it was a cheaper mode of transportation. However, the Pakistani authorities turned down Afghanistan’s request to extend the facility for unlimited period.
The coordination authority will meet for two days to resolve the issue and deliberate over other outstanding issues like the customs procedures and problems in implementing insurance guarantees clause, which had been inserted in the treaty to discourage smuggling under the guise of Afghan transit trade.
Haji Fateh Khan, representative of the Federation of International Transport Companies of Pakistan, said that Pakistani transporters were also facing problems in Afghanistan. He said the biggest issue that dented the transport business was the volatile security situation in the neighbouring country. Khan added that Afghanistan was creating hurdles in giving entry permits which was affecting the cross border movement of cargoes.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2012.