Karachi, April 26, 2020: To facilitate movement of cargo trucks and containers to cross over into Afghanistan through Torkham and Chaman border while keeping Afghanistan Government’s special request, the Government of Pakistan has devised several mechanisms.
The border has been kept operational for three days in a week with appropriately developed quarantine measures, which was well received by the business community across the border. However, the speed of clearance, procedural delays, limited working hours and load of stuck consignments have limited reaping of the benefits and the target of cross-border movement is still not met.
Zubair Motiwala while applauding efforts of the Government of Pakistan stated that such delays drains the effect of positive approach and government bodies should immediately review the mechanism for possible improvements.
He put forth that our capacity to handle and clear such extensive consignments exist and if prioritized this gridlock can still be handled effectively. He strongly demanded that border may be kept fully operational for at least two weeks, 24/7 to eliminate the backlog and ensure provision of required items to the people of Afghanistan in the month of Ramadan.
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Khan Jan Alokozai, Co-Chairman PAJCCI, extended his regards to Government of Pakistan for the facilitation, but reiterated that if the speed and processing time remains the same, then it would take more than 3 months to clear the backlog, which would not only impact the consumption of the citizens of Afghanistan but also would aggravate the situation by worsening cost of doing business and perishable items would totally be rotten.
He also brought to light a recent move to conduct 100 percent scanning of transit cargo both at the port and cross-border. Keeping already delayed containers in view, upcoming Ramadan and requirements for consumerables whereby most consignments are of a perishable nature, limited time schedule for clearance of consignments at the border, this requirement would have the devastating effect.
Zubair Motiwala suggested that an alternative of “Profiling Mechanism” may be adopted to accommodate the requirement along with expediting the process. The parties with regular and clear history may be exempted from this while only parties with some exceptions may pass through scanning (that too should not exceed 20 percent as APTTA required 5percent only) to expedite the movement else as stuck containers are more than 5000 hence if they are passed through 100 percent scanning coupled with limited border operations and procedural hindrances it would aggravate the situation significantly.
Motiwala acknowledged a recent notification issued by the Ministry of Maritimes to All Pakistan Shipping Association and Pakistan Ship’s Agents Association, in line with the previously issued requests by FBR and Directorate General of Transit Trade, for extending the relief by ensuring the detention free days to the stuck consignments in context of COVID 19 and more importantly waiving the exorbitant detention charges (for the period of 25th March to 30th April) where applicable to safeguard importers from incurring extensive losses in these desperate times.
He established that it is a dire need and is already being practiced by the shipping companies in the region. However, Chairman PAJCCI, reiterated that the issued notification is a request and not a directive which is causing immense distress amongst the traders in terms of economic impasse.
The Chamber has also collected evidences recently from the traders who have been invoiced for these charges despite requests were made with the shipping lines. In line with this, Chairman PAJCCI urged the Government of Pakistan to issue directives rather than a request to the shipping lines for immediate execution of the notification in letter and spirit by waiving the detention charges.
Chairman PAJCCI also mentioned that in order to put all matters on the table, he requested DG Transit Trade to conduct joint liaison committee, which was conducted on April 23 where all relevant stakeholders put forth their issues and urged an immediate resolution of the issues at hand.
The parties requested Chairman PAJCCI to facilitate the outlined issues, as a response to which he believed that the honourable Prime Minister may intervene for ensuring the immediate execution of the strategies already agreed upon especially in context of shipping lines which are not paying heed to the gravity of the situation and are adamant to take benefit in this tormenting situation also.