KARACHI, Pakistan: The closure of one of Pakistan’s main border crossings with Afghanistan costs local businesses up to 150 million Pakistani rupees ($ 854,000) per day in trade losses, trade chiefs said on Wednesday .
Chaman is the second largest trade border point between the two countries and connects the Pakistani province of Balochistan with Spin Boldak in the Afghan province of Kandahar.
It is one of the most regular trade routes used for the transport of goods between the two countries.
The crossing, a vital source of customs revenue for the cash-strapped Taliban government in Afghanistan, has been closed for about three weeks, despite repeated protests from truckers and others stranded at the border.
Muhammad Hashim Khan Achakzai, chairman of the Shaman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Arab News: “The border has been closed since the first week of this month, costing us between 100 million and 150 million rupees per year. day.
“Every day, around 10,000 people travel on both sides of the border from Chaman,” he said, adding that some workers and traders have been waiting for more than 20 days for the border to reopen.
As Afghanistan sinks deeper into the economic crisis, neighboring countries are increasingly worried about a massive movement of refugees. Now, the closure of Chaman and traffic disruptions at Torkham in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, as well as the suspension of Pakistan Airlines flights from Kabul, have left Afghanistan largely isolated.
Initially closed by Pakistani authorities due to security threats, disputes over issues ranging from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to the validity of Afghan travel documents have prevented the Chaman crossing from reopening, despite serious difficulties for local truckers and farmers.
The border was opened briefly on Sunday evening and people from both sides were allowed to cross mainly for medical reasons. However, it was closed again and no movement of goods from either side has been allowed since, according to traders.
Pakistani officials said the problem was on the Afghan side and they expected it to be resolved in the coming days. A Taliban spokesperson was unavailable for comment.
Zubair Motiwala, chairman of the Joint Pakistan-Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Arab News: “They (the Taliban) have visa problems, which is why they closed the border. They say they will open it in a few days.
In the meantime, however, at least 50,000 people in Chaman district who are linked to cross-border trade out of a population of around 200,000 continue to suffer.
Jalaat Khan Achakzai, local trader and former president of the CCCI, told Arab News: “The border closure has bankrupted some 50,000 small and medium-sized traders. “
Traders said trucks carrying dried fruits, vegetables and other perishable items were parked on both sides of the border.
“About 2,000 trucks carrying loaded and empty containers are waiting. Traders also suffer losses as they have to pay around $ 150 in container holding fees to shipping companies, ”Achakzai said.
Jamaluddin Achakzai, also a local trader and former president of the CCCI, said: “Talks between local officials and residents of Spin Boldak have taken place but to no avail. It is vital to open the border which impacts the livelihoods of more than half a million people on both sides. Carriers sell the fuel, gasoline and diesel for their vehicles to survive.
Some who crossed the border said the condition of Pakistani and Afghan carriers was getting worse.
Ehtisham Mufti, a veteran Pakistani journalist who recently traveled to the region as far as Kandahar, told Arab News: “The condition of Pakistani and Afghan truckers on the Afghan side is even more painful because they do not have enough financial resources. to survive. Human tragedy can be avoided if immediate action is taken on time. “