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KARACHI: The Ambassador of Tajikistan to Pakistan Ismatullo Nasredin and President Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) Muhammad Idrees, while identifying lack of connectivity between Pakistan and Tajikistan as one of most serious hurdles hindering trade, stressed the need to commence direct flights between Pakistan and Tajikistan which would drastically reduce the travel time to just ‘one hour and twenty minutes’ from 22 hours as currently, the travellers take connecting flights either from Dubai or Istanbul to reach Dushanbe.

Exchanging views at a meeting held at the KCCI, Tajik envoy and President KCCI noted that despite being geographically close to each other and having huge potential to improve trade and business, the trade volume remains very limited due to lack of connectivity which was the most serious obstacle, disallowing the two countries to be closer to each other.”

Tajik Ambassador, who was on his second visit to Karachi, informed that he will be holding a meeting with Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority next week and subsequently discuss this issue with Tajik Civil Aviation Authority, as well, so that this pressing problem could be sorted out as it was not feasible for businessmen to travel for 22 hours to reach Dushanbe which was less than one-and-a-half away from Pakistan.

He further mentioned that although Pakistan and Tajikistan share excellent relations and Pakistan was a reliable partner of Tajikistan in terms of political relations, security, economic and cultural cooperation but still “there are a lot of problems that we both need to overcome.”

Commenting on declining trade volume between the two countries, the envoy said that the peak time was 2013 when trade between Tajikistan and Pakistan touched US$94 million but it has been constantly declining since then and dropped to US$25 million in 2020. He said, “In addition to 22 documents signed during last year’s Tajikistan President’s visit to Pakistan in June and Pakistan Prime Minister’s visit to Tajikistan in September, a total of 77 bilateral documents have been signed by both countries during the last 30 years, of which more than 50 documents are related to economic field but unfortunately, only 10 percent of these documents remain effective while the rest of 90 percent of the documents are on papers only.”

“We have Tajik businessmen who are interested in doing business with Pakistani counterparts but this was not happening due to lack of information about each other which is another issue hindering trade”, he added.

He said that for the landlocked Tajikistan, Karachi Port was ideal for trade as it was just 2200 kilometres away from Dushanbe and very cost effective. The shipment cost from Karachi Port was around US$3,000 only which was three times lower as compared to shipment cost of US$10,000 from Poti Seaport in Georgia which was also being used by Tajik businessmen due to difficulties in Afghanistan. “We are also looking into the possibility of shifting some of the Tajik shipments to Gwadar Port as Karachi Port remains quite busy”, he said. The only viable possibility for Tajikistan to reach warm waters is via Pakistani ports, he said.

Tajik Ambassador requested the Karachi Chamber to organize a delegation’s visit to Tajikistan to explore partners and possibilities which was the best and only way to improve trade, economic and investment cooperation. “Your visit to Tajikistan will be fully facilitated by the Tajik Embassy and we will arrange maximum visits and meetings in not just the Capital but other cities, as well, particularly the six economic zones of Tajikistan where no taxes or duties were applicable.”

He said, “We are not businessmen, we are not people from economic spheres, we are diplomats and our job is to establish your contact with the counterparts in our country, provide preliminary information, facilitate your travel and the next step will be taken by you and your partners in Tajikistan.”

Earlier, President KCCI Muhammad Idrees, while welcoming the Tajik Ambassador, stated that Pakistan and Tajikistan share friendly bilateral relations but the bilateral trade volume of the two countries has gradually inclined during the past few years. “During 2021, Pakistan exported goods worth $17.09 million as against $11.55 million during 2020, showing an increase of 47.92 percent while the imports from Tajikistan were recorded at $15.2 million against imports of $14.24 million in 2020, showing an increase of 6.73 percent”, he informed and added that the trade volume of just US$32 million was too low which requires special attention and collective efforts.

To improve the existing trade volume, President KCCI suggested focusing on enhancing trade of various products and commodities including flat-rolled products of iron or steel, tractors, organic surface-active agents, tubes, pipes, aluminium, bananas, sugar confectioneries, malt extract, wheat, rice, canola oil, fertilizer and many other agricultural products.

While urging Tajik investors to interest in exploring business opportunities in Pakistan under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through investments and joint ventures, Muhammad Idrees also invited the Tajik business community to participate in KCCI’s My Karachi Exhibition scheduled to be staged at Karachi Expo Centre from 13th to 15th May 2022. This mega event provides an excellent opportunity to businessmen for B2B meetings and provides one window facility for promotion of trade, he said. Honorary Consul General of Tajikistan Irshad Kassim Ali, Vice President KCCI Qazi Zahid Hussain, Former President KCCI Abdullah Zaki, Chairman Diplomatic Missions & Embassies Liaison Subcommittee Ziaul Arfeen, Former Vice President KCCI Shamsul Islam Khan and KCCI Managing Committee Members attended the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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