ISLAMABAD: The Afghanistan-Pakistan transit trade agreement will come into effect today (January 1), allowing India-bound Afghan cargo trucks to enter Pakistan via the border post at Torkham on their way to Wagah.
The new deal will allow Afghan goods to pass through Pakistan in sealed containers, secured by tracking devices. The containers will be re-examined and certified before leaving the border at Torkham.
Both countries have also agreed to share customs information to tackle the incidence of unauthorised trade.
The trade agreement, prepared after several rounds of talks between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States and allaying reservations expressed by the ministry of defence and other stakeholders, requires Afghan traders to furnish a bank guarantee to the tune of customs duty essential to check smuggling or misuse of the facility.
Authorised brokers or clearing agents will also be required to deposit financial guarantees equivalent to import levies in Pakistan: the amount will be released after the goods exit the country.
If the goods do not leave the country within a specified time, the guarantees will be confiscated by the customs authorities.
Afghan trucks will be allowed to carry Afghan transit export cargo on designated routes to Pakistani ports and also up to the Indian border where Afghan cargo will be transferred to Indian trucks.
This deal will, for the first time, provide an opportunity for Afghan fruit, dry fruit, carpet and marble producers to market their products in India.
It was also agreed that at this stage, no Indian exports to Afghanistan will be allowed via Wagah. This, however, “could be discussed at an appropriate time in the future”.
For this purpose, “Pakistan will provide a side letter to Afghanistan giving this Understanding”.
Till December 31, 2010, Afghan transit goods in Pakistan were transferred under a transit trade agreement signed by the two countries in 1965.
Under the agreement, five transit routes are available for transit trade from Pakistan: These are: Peshawar-Torkham and vice-versa, Chaman-Spin Boldak and vice versa, Ghulam Khan Killi, Port Qasim and Karachi ports.
Sheds and open spaces are reserved at the Karachi port known for handling Afghan transit goods.
Under the previous agreement, Afghan goods transiting through Karachi port are exempt from Pakistani duties or customs tariffs.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2011.