Peshawar – While the new dry port being set up in Nowshera district may become operational by the end of October, analysts believe that both Pakistan and Afghanistan need to promote peaceful coexistence for peace and trade in the region.
Prof Dr Zahid Ali Marwat from Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan told The News that the dry port in Nowshera would improve trade prospects in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and also promote trade with Afghanistan. However, he said the declining Pak-Afghan trade is because India has grabbed the market in Afghanistan.
“Afghan soldiers are being trained by India, which is also carrying out projects in Afghanistan,” Dr Zahid Marwat said. He felt it remains to be seen if the recent visit of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi can result in positive outcomes. “Since the inception of Pakistan, our relations with Afghanistan have mostly remained hostile,” he recalled.
The dry port at Azakhel in Nowshera district would become functional by the end of October. “We have arranged all the facilities including electrification, the Internet, natural gas, proper parking space for vehicles and a crane at the new dry port spread over an area of 22 acres. We are presently installing a weigh bridge there,” stated Divisional Transportation Officer of the Pakistan Railways Anwar Sadaat.
He admitted that Peshawar dry port sited on one acre of land is small while the new dry port in Nowshera would not only have 22 acres covered area, but the additional around 46 acres of land can also be used in future if required.
Director of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ziaul Haq Sarhadi said the completion of Azakhel dry port in Nowshera would help restore trade activities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He added the lack of facilities at Peshawar dry port had severely affected business activities in the northwestern province and trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan because it lacked the required facilities.
“The dry port in Peshawar lacks space for parking of trucks and crane, there is no canteen, drainage system and merchant room,” stated Sarhadi, who is also chairman of the Pakistan Railways standing committee on dry port. About the Pak-Afghan trade, he said the trade volume had plummeted from $2.5 billion to $500 million nowadays, for which he blamed the policies of both the countries.
“Due to lack of facilities at the Peshawar dry port and high transport fares for shifting goods to Afghanistan through Karachi port, about 70 percent of traders have shifted trade to Chabahar and Bandar Abbas ports in Iran,” Sarhadi claimed. Mubarak Zeb Khan, a political economist, said the strict visa regime and regulatory duties on various imports from Afghanistan have affected the trade between the two countries.
“India is offering subsidies on products to Afghanistan. This is the reason India has captured the market there. Pakistan instead has imposed regulatory duties on the fresh and dry fruit and vegetables that come to Pakistan from across the border,” he argued.
He said Pakistan should make arrangements for one-window facility to issue visas to Afghan traders and others at the border in order to promote trade, including trade in services.
“One example of the trade in services is the medical facilities that the Afghans can avail here in Peshawar. Before border management measures were taken, many Afghans used to visit big hospitals in Peshawar. Not just in Peshawar, but the government should also set up big hospitals in border areas with Afghanistan,” he added.