PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday that opening the vital Pak-Afghan Torkham border round-the-clock will considerably bolster trade between Kabul and Islamabad and boost regional commerce activities.
Torkham is located along the 2,500 km international border that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan and serves as a major transportation and shipping site, through which about 10,000 people cross daily. PM Khan, along with senior Afghan officials formally inaugurated the border post on Wednesday, though the expanded hours took effect earlier this month on a trial basis.
“This is a historic day. Trade with Afghanistan jumped by 50 percent during the trial period of the 24/7 border opening,” Khan told a press conference after inaugurating the Integrated Transit Trade Management System at the border. The move comes just days after Pakistan summoned an Afghan diplomat to account for militants from Afghanistan firing on Pakistani troops at the border, resulting in four deaths.
Flanked by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, PM Khan said the 24/7 opening of the important border crossing would multiply trade and employment opportunities for the entire region.
Afghan-Pakistani trade was worth $1.5 billion in 2016, with Pakistan shipments accounting for 80% of it, according to data compiled by the World Bank, UN, and the World Trade Organization.
Earlier, Faiz Muhammad, President of Peshawar’s Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, had told Arab News that bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan had remained under a billion dollars during the current fiscal year.
“People’s lives will be changed and Peshawar will turn into a regional hub of business…and this will generate more employment opportunities,” Khan said, referring to the northwestern Pakistani city that is the capital of KP province.
Khan also said the entire region would transform once peace was restored in Afghanistan and said he hoped business activities would reach as far as Central Asia.
“It would be a huge tragedy if US-Taliban talks could not move forward,” he said, adding that he would meet US President Donald Trump on Monday during the UN General Assembly Session in New York and insist the two countries resume the stalled dialogue.
“First, the resumption of peace talks is of paramount importance for Afghanistan and for….Pakistan. We will try utmost to jump-start the talks,” he said.
However, he ruled out any chance of direct talks with neighboring India until New Delhi revoked curfew-like conditions in Kashmir.
“Let me promise you that I will present the Kashmir case in the General Assembly with full vigor on Monday,” he said but added Pakistan did not support any extremist actions in Kashmir.
“If one thinks to go to Kashmir for the purpose of Jihad (Islamic concept of holy war), it will be a great disservice to Kashmiris. Anyone who takes an extreme step will be the enemy of Pakistan as well as Kashmiris,” he said.