The Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MoCI) on Wednesday said Pakistan has been trying to open illegal transit routes with Afghanistan in an attempt to boost its declining trade with the country.
According to MoCI, the opening of a new crossing by Pakistan along the Durand Line into Koram Agency is an attempt to pave the way for illegal trade between the two countries.
But the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) said Pakistan is trying to retain trade volume on the local market by opening an illegal trade route.
This comes two days after President Ashraf Ghani said at the official inauguration of the new air cargo route between Afghanistan and India that people who create problems for Afghanistan should know that the people take these issues and turn them into opportunities.
Ghani said not only will this new import/export route increase the income of farmers and traders in Afghanistan but it will create more employment opportunities, decrease poverty and deepen Afghanistan-India relations.
Meanwhile the ministry of commerce and industries said the opening of the new trade crossing in Koram Agency, which connects Afghanistan’s Khost and Nangarhar province through Pakistan’s Meeran Shah area, was not suitable for trade and commercial activities, adding that Afghanistan wants to expand its trade and economic ties with Pakistan through Torkham and Chaman crossing points.
“Afghanistan wants to promote its trade and transit relations with Pakistan through legal ways, but not through the illegal ways,” said Sayed Yahya Akhlaqi, head of transit department of MoCI.
ACCI deputy head Khan Jan Alokozai said the new trade crossing in Koram Agency will pave the way for smuggling of precious stones from Afghanistan to Pakistan and increase the amount of low-quality Pakistani products coming in to Afghanistan.
“The government of Afghanistan needs to close this route, because security problems do not allow us to use these routes, perhaps this is a pretext for increasing smuggling from Pakistan to Afghanistan,” said Alokozai.
Meanwhile, a number of economic commentators have said that the drop in trade volume from Pakistan has been the key reason for the opening of illegal routes in the country.
They say that Pakistan, by opening illegal routes, want to maintain its dominance on the local market.
Based on MoCI statistics, alongside legal routes such as Chaman and Torkham, there are more than 10 other small, illegal trade crossings between Afghanistan and Pakistan and products worth millions of dollars are smuggled through here annually.
TOLOnews tried to get comment from the Pakistani embassy in Kabul, but was not successful.