Thursday, April 21, 2011

Are we losing Afghan Transit Trade route?


Pakistan has since long provided an easy and cheap transit route for the land locked Afghanistan by allowing offloading of cargo bound for Afghanistan at its Karachi seaport and ship the consignments through Pakistan road network to Torkham near Peshawar or Chaman near Quetta.  But recently there have been some emerging realities that may almost close this much frequented transit route, depriving thousands of people in Pakistan of their jobs and transporters and clearing agents out of business.

Lately there have been unprecedented delays in the implementation of the Afghan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) due to a standoff between the National Logistic Cell (NLC) and customs and some other lacunae like installation of scanners. This uncertainty and incoherent approach has forced the afghan traders to book their goods through the Bandar Abbas port of Iran. The switching over would not only allow a shorter route to the afghan importers from the cargo booked at Dubai and other Gulf countries, but would also ensure a safer transit route than the bloody roads of Balochistan which have been threatened by insurgency and militancy.

As per a new reports, recently some 17,000 containers have been booked from Dubai to Afghanistan through the seaport of Bandar Abbas.  This switching over is definitely going to hurt the transporters and clearing agents of Karachi, Khyber Pakhtunkwa and Balochistan, besides job loss to many others who are directly or indirectly affiliated with the APTTA.

The news follows earlier news of India developing a trade route through the Chahbahar seaport of Iran to Afghanistan. To that effect, India has already constructed world class roads inside Afghanistan linking Iran for the purpose. When this trade route opens, the efficacy of Gwader would be lost forever as the traders and importers in Afghanistan and even the CARs would prefer a more secure and stable roué through Iran rather than troubled Balochistan in Pakistan. If I am allowed to say, even China may start to use alternative routes unless we ensure secure accessibility of trade through Gwader.

And what is very strange and disgusting that none of the political leaders or parties have taken a note of this strategic shift in Afghanistan policy to use alternative route due to our incompetence and indifferent attitude towards the issue and urging the government to resolve the issue before we entirely lose the APTTA.

Rather our politicians are busy in asking why DG ISI goes to USA or how the ZAB case is to be pursued. Some injured politicians are asking others to apologies to people for siding with the dictators as if such apologies would put our present woes right. It seems that our politicians and leaders do not have a strategic vision to see into the future or happenings around us that are detrimental to our interests.  The issue of APTTA if not resolved immediately, it would be very soon that some 15,000 trucks would lose business and thousands their jobs as APTTA may cease to exist very soon.

I can only urge our leaders and politicians to get serious about running the affairs of the business and that of Pakistan more seriously and set aside their prejudices and hurt pride for the sake of this dear country of ours, before it is too late.

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