Nearly 5,000 Afghan transit containers have remained stopped in the Karachi port over the last three months following the coronavirus crisis, adding another layer of complexity to the problems faced by Afghanistan’s traders, according to officials of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The officials said the Afghan traders are paying $80 to $200 a day in demurrage charges --charges for goods stuck in transit -- and container detention charges to shipping lines despite the Pakistani government’s pledge to exempt the traders from the charges.
“Clearly, it is in the interest of the Pakistani government. It receives fine money, it receives money directly and indirectly. Our demand is that the Afghan government should stop this,” said Naqibullah Safi, CEO of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Safi said they sent two letters to the Pakistani prime minister to solve the issue. One letter was sent on May 21 and the second on July 6. The last letter mentioned challenges on transit of goods from Pakistan to Afghanistan. It has asked the Pakistani government to address the issue.
Afghan officials said that a big part of the problem has been addressed.
“There were at least 15,000 containers who were affected to some extent by the Pakistani government’s decision under the COVID-19 crisis,” said Abdul Karim Malikyar, acting minister of industry and commerce.
On July 2, the Karachi Customs Agents Association sent a letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and mentioned problems faced by Afghan trade transit containers. The association asked the Pakistani leader to address the issue.
On Saturday, Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Mohammad Sadiq, in a tweet said that all five border crossings opened recently (Torkham, Ghulam Khan, Kharlachi, Angor Adda and Chaman) are now open to trucks.