ISLAMABAD: In order to discuss the issues of resumption of Pakistan’s imports from Afghanistan and demurrage charges being incurred on the Afghan Transit Trade cargo, an inter-ministerial meeting was held in the Ministry of Commerce, the meeting was chaired by Additional Secretary (Trade Diplomacy) Ministry of Commerce and was attended by the representatives of Federal Board of Revenue , Ministry of Maritime Affairs and representatives of other LEAs (law enforcement agencies).
The Additional Secretary (Trade Policy) informed the participants of the meeting that there are demands from Afghanistan with respect to the Bilateral and Transit Trade those included (i) Pakistan may allow Afghan exports to Pakistan (ii) Pakistan may allow reverse transit to Karachi and Wagha (iii) Waving of Demurrage charges being incurred on Afghan Transit Cargo.
When sought comments from participants over the aforementioned proposals, the representative of FBR informed that Afghan major exports comprises of fresh fruits, vegetables and minerals however Pakistan is buying 80% of Afghan fresh fruits, if our restriction on Afghan import persists, then the Afghan fruits may be wasted; as the country lack fruit storage infrastructure, he endorse the resumption of Afghan exports to Pakistan.
On the question of the Chair regarding higher number of Transit Trade vehicles being cleared per day then vehicles carrying Pakistani exports to Afghanistan, he added that there are two roads, one carrying exports and other carrying imports to and from Afghanistan respectively.
He told that in post COVID-19 regime, road carrying exports of Pakistan to Afghanistan was closed, as there are instructions to do 100% scanning of the Transit cargo at Torkham and SOPs are also being observed and there is one operational scanner i.e on imports side road/lane, therefore clearance of the exports and ATT (Afghan Transit Trade) trucks at Torkham is slow.
The representative of FBR informed that the opening of the road can be ensured in coordination with Directorate of Military operations and Ministry of Interior, if another scanner is arranged or physical inspection of export cargo is restarted.
The representatives of LEAs support the proposal of allowing Afghan exports to Pakistan provided that same SOPs formulated for clearance of Trucks carrying Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan are followed by both sides.
On waiving of the demurrage charges on the Afghan Transit cargo, the representative of MOMA (Ministry of Maritime Affairs) informed that there has been practice in the past for waiving of the demurrage charges, he gave example of summary moved by MOMA to (ECC) Economic Coordination Committee on the recommendations of Ministry of Water and Power to waive demurrage charges on the machinery procured for the NandiPur Project.
After detailed deliberations the participants unanimously agreed that (a) recommendations will be forward to National Coordination and Control Committee for allowing imports from Afghanistan through Chaman and Torkham Border (b) A joint committee may be formulated comprising of Additional Collector (Customs), Wing Commander FC (Frontier Commander) and Deputy Superintendent Police at both Torkham and Chaman borders further the committee will ensure hassle free flow of transit and bilateral trade by visiting both points and suggesting corrective measures to facilitate businessmen (c) the Afghan communiqué as requested wavier of the demurrage charges on stranded cargo, will be shared with Ministry of Maritime Affairs for moving summery to ECC after having inter-Ministerial consultation.