Containers held up at Karachi port: Afghan traders threaten to seek UN intervention

Published: February 3, 2013
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Nearly 3,500 containers have been stuck for three months, Pakistan could lose Afghan trade to Iran as crisis peaks. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

Nearly 3,500 containers have been stuck for three months, Pakistan could lose Afghan trade to Iran as crisis peaks. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

Afghan traders said on Saturday that they will ask the United Nations and United States to intervene if Pakistan did not release their containers blocked at the Karachi port.

In a phone call from Kabul, deputy head of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) Khan Jan Alkozai told The Express Tribune that his government’s diplomatic efforts have failed, and importers are suffering losses of millions of dollars in demurrage payments.

“We had planned to approach the UN and the US on Saturday, but temporarily delayed it on the government’s request in a meeting with the commerce minister in Kabul,” he said.

“We will wait till Monday, to see if diplomatic efforts by the Afghan government reap yield. If its efforts do not resolve the problem, we will be left with no choice but to raise the issue with the UN mission and the US embassy in Kabul,” Alkozai said.

Nearly 3,500 containers have been stuck at the Karachi for the past three months.

The ACCI deputy head said that in a meeting with Afghan and Pakistan traders in Islamabad on January 1, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf ordered for the blocked containers to be released within 10 days. However, the premier’s orders have yet to be implemented.

He said Afghan traders have also asked authorities in Pakistan to allow them to take the containers to Iran’s Bandar Abbas Port if they are not cleared from the Karachi port.

Alokzai lashed out at the bureaucracy both in Pakistan and Afghanistan for “creating hurdles” in the implementation of the new transit trade agreement, saying that the agreement has not made work easier for traders in both countries and had instead multiplied their problems.

Pakistan and Afghanistan inked the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement in 2010 and it started working in 2011. The accord, which was signed in Islamabad in the presence of then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 18, 2010, replaced the 1965 bilateral trade agreement that allowed Afghanistan truckers to deliver their goods at the Wagha border point and permitted Pakistan to gain access to Central Asia via Afghanistan.

Alokzai said that Afghan traders are now diverting 7,000 containers of transit from Dubai to Iran’s Chabahar Port for imports into Afghanistan instead of Karachi. He said Afghan traders in Dubai took the decision on Friday after seeing problems at the Karachi port

“Afghan traders are seriously thinking of diverting their imports via Iranian ports and the Afghan government is also in the process of starting talks with Central Asian states for alternate routes,” Alokzai said.

He said harming transit trade will affect many Pakistanis who benefitted from Afghan imports as Afghan traders pay around two billion US dollars annually to their neighbours.

He said that some of the containers at the port are loaded with food and which would spoil if the goods were not cleared immediately.

Alkozai said that prices of several food items in Afghanistan have increased by 30 to 40 per cent due to the blockade as the delivery of essential items has been delayed for months.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • abc
    Feb 3, 2013 - 11:04AM

    I see ‘foreign-hand’ in it to dislodge the role of pakistan
    as the sole country to provide consignments to afghanistan.
    Maybe India is completing it’s work on Iranian port and now aims to
    Divert consignments to Afghanistan and Central Asia via Iran, and has bribed officers to
    This effect.Recommend

  • sajjad ali khan
    Feb 3, 2013 - 11:27AM

    For pakistanis who are akways calling karzai mayor of kabul. iy seems yout guy raja sahib is not even mayor of kabul. his orders are ignored. what a joke system and what a good neighbour. dont worry our turn will soon come tooo when we stop the water on you guys. thrn yiu will know the worth of being a good neighbour.

    Recommend

  • A2Z
    Feb 3, 2013 - 12:30PM

    ET are you really a Pakistani paper? You should have also include the reason for blockade of containers.

    Recommend

  • Zalim singh
    Feb 3, 2013 - 1:09PM

    So Pakistan cheats Afghans too.

    Recommend

  • Bravo
    Feb 3, 2013 - 1:40PM

    If this means less illegal Afghans in Pk esp Khi then keep on doing this!

    Recommend

  • Imran Ahsan Mirza
    Feb 3, 2013 - 1:49PM

    Non sense journalism, giving no reason or details of why this has happened.

    Recommend

  • syed baqar ahsan
    Feb 3, 2013 - 1:50PM

    what is the real issue not clearly stated above or it is some other game to deprive Pakistan from another advantages or illegal weapons boring in to arm TTP and others

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  • MukamilAhmad
    Feb 3, 2013 - 2:31PM

    More than 30 of our containers are stuck in port from last 30 days and it is causing huge loss for us and for other traders.Last month Pakistan PM ordered to release all goods but no one paid any attention.This is enough and now Afghan traders have decided to divert their route to Iran and will not use Karachi any more for Transit. With this decision, it will affect Pakistan directly because now Pakistani goods will be stopped there in Afghanistan and will not be allowed,so export of Pakistani items like cement, fruit, oil etc. will decrease. Moreover Pakistan will lose customers and I would blame government for this whole drama.

    Recommend

  • Lucknow Nabob
    Feb 3, 2013 - 11:26PM

    … Good Riddance … Please take the whole sordid business through Iran … Will be a great favour for the Pakistani industry …

    Recommend

  • Pakistani342
    Feb 3, 2013 - 11:56PM

    @MukamilAhmad, This is really a welcome move. The less Pakistanis have to do with Afghans and Afghanistan the better. I hope the Afghan refugees, squatters, shuras, students leave Pakistan along with your containers.

    You have 5 neighbors other than Pakistan – hopefully you will leave us for for them for the next 30 years.

    Best of luck! Hope you do well just not in Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • Pakistani342
    Feb 4, 2013 - 12:01AM

    @sajjad ali khan:
    My dear let’s hope that a time comes soon when we in Pakistan and Afghanistan don’t really care who the other’s prime minister or president is. I am sure you are as anxious to be free of us as we are off you.

    Can’t say it’s been pleasant knowing you, and I hope the estrangement will be a welcome relief.

    Recommend

  • Moderator
    Feb 4, 2013 - 7:43PM

    Both sides are wrong. Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan is not a properly working country then why you are making such a complected agreements. We are paid for the Transit goods so allow afghan safe passage.

    Recommend

  • SU Khattak
    Feb 17, 2013 - 5:29PM

    Politics aside, this is a brilliant example of an extreme bad Customer Service=bad business and antagonism. The Karachi port authorities must realise this, surely! Wake up Pakistani business, smell the coffee!!… and of the poor port workers in karachi losing out to the Indian administered ports in Iran? When will you learn????? I think: let the Chinese take this port over for the betterment of Pakistan in addition to the Gwadar port recently taken over by the Chinese.

    Recommend

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