Experts urge normalising trade with Afghanistan

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Businessmen and economists have stressed that it is time for Pakistan to see Afghanistan from a geo-economic angle instead of only looking at the neighbouring country from the lens of geopolitics.

“It is time to regain the lost share in the market of Afghanistan,” said Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF) Vice President Ahmad Jawad while talking to The Express Tribune on Saturday. “Pakistan must immediately resume trade with Afghanistan from Torkham and Chaman.”

He cautioned that the country could not afford to suspend trade ties in the wake of evolving situation in Afghanistan because majority of the exporters based in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are linked to Afghan trade.

He pointed out that the volume of annual bilateral trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which was over $5 billion at one point in time, has fallen to just $1 billion.

He emphasised that Pakistan should normalise trade relation with Afghanistan, adding that it is time to eliminate food shortage and cash deficit in the neighbouring country which is possible only with the continuity of transit trade.

Similarly, Pakistan has to assure friendship and peace with the leadership of Taliban which clearly stated that trade is vital to strengthen both countries, and the people who live on bordering areas of both sides, he added.

He cautioned against waiting for reaction of other countries and called for taking cues from China and Russia who had extended a hand to Afghanistan.

“We should boost trade activities from traditional points between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” said Sustainable Development Policy Institute Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri. “The US government has frozen Afghanistan accounts to deter the South Asian nation from entering into deals with other countries.”

He was of the view that if Pakistan resorts to practice barter trade with Afghanistan, it would be a great help to the neighbouring country as it will resolve the issue of food supply for the masses.

With the new government setup of the war-torn nation, Pakistan should deliberate on how it can extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Central Asia for the benefit of both countries, said Suleri.

Echoing his views, Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME) President Zulfikar Thaver stressed that if Pakistan refuses to let go of the past, it will remain in a state of turmoil.

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