Pakistani authorities have decided to enhance the existing capacity of resources and manpower to ensure fast-tracked trade between Pakistan and India.
Thereby, customs officials at the Wagah border are instructed to perform their duties round-the-clock in three shifts, starting from today, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The decision was taken at an inter-departmental meeting held at the Wagah border.
Joint Director of the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) Colonel Amjad, Commanding Officer National Logistic Cell (NLC) Colonel Ishtiaq Wayen, Deputy Collector Customs Tauqir Dar and other officials participated in the meeting, an attendee told The Express Tribune.
Due to increasing trade between the two nations, customs authorities have requested NLC to install one more scanner and a weighbridge at the Wagah border.
Presently, just one scanner and a weighbridge are available at the Wagah border due to which an average of only 350 trucks are cleared on a daily basis, which includes 200 trucks coming from India and about 150 trucks heading towards the neighbouring country.
A member who attended the meeting said that 42 staff members from the Customs Department will also be deployed for scanning and examination duties from today onwards.
Similarly, staff members of the NLC and ANF have also been increased at the Wagah border to ensure the speedy process of screening and examination of the consignments to guarantee that no consignment enters or exits with contraband, explosives or other objectionable goods, the participant of the meeting further stated.
Sources explained that hundreds of trucks laden with tomatoes, onions, garlic and other food items reached Pakistan daily from India and almost the same numbers of trucks carrying salt, soda, stones, dry dates, dry fruits and gypsum, cement and other goods headed towards the Indian territories from the Wagah border.
Pakistani and Indian authorities have also considered holding joint screening and examination of the consignments to save time and facilitate trade, sources familiar with the matter further revealed.
Additionally, as a transit route, trucks from Afghanistan carrying dry and fresh fruits also reach Wagah and head towards India. These trucks were checked twice in Pakistan, first at the Chaman border and then at Wagah border, as a result of which Afghan traders face the problem of unloading their trucks twice.
The Afghan exporters along with their government have taken up the matter with the Pakistani government for allowing the trucks to directly reach the Wagah border, to avoid hold-ups.
Edited by Zehra Husain
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2012.