ISLAMABAD: The government is likely to extend Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) for another six months as both sides have not yet restarted talks on the proposed pact after Taliban took control of Afghanistan, sources close to Secretary Commerce told Business Recorder.
Pakistan was bound by international obligations, including United Nations convention of Land Locked states 1965 and United Nations convention on Law of sea 1992 for provision of passage to land locked states.
Afghanistan, being a land-locked country, was also entitled for passage of transit cargo. Besides, this passage through Afghanistan was also meant to facilitate trade and transit to and from the doubly land locked central Asian states. Historically, Pakistan had always provided access to Afghan transit cargo. Before APTTA 2010, access was under ATTA 1965. Moreover, stoppage of transit goods access may result in humanitarian crisis and in flow of refugees.
Moreover, APTTA 2010 did not cover multimodal bonded air to land transit as per article 4. However, Commerce Ministry and FBR maintained that such transit initially from Islamabad Airport would not only ease provision of urgently needed support for Afghanistan but will also generate goodwill for Pakistan in the international community.
The Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement, of 1965, allowed Afghan trucks to pass through Border Crossing Points (BCPs) on the basis of Road Permits. This mechanism was replaced with Temporary Admission Document in April 2010, but was never implemented. However, Afghanistan and Pakistan allowed passage to each other’s trucks from 2011 -2016.
The Afghan Government stopped Pakistani trucks carrying export goods for central Asian Republics at Jalalabad and Spin Boldak, from October 2017 through a presidential decree. As a result, Pakistan also stopped Afghan trucks from moving beyond Peshawar and Chaman.
Afghan trucks were allowed movement within Pakistan and similar access was given to Pakistan trucks within Afghanistan and to CARs under April 2010. Same arrangement had been agreed by both sides during negotiations to finalize April 2021 with easier modalities which was also extremely crucial for TIR operations from Pakistan. Multiple times offloading of goods increased the cost & time of transportation and damaged goods, especially perishables.
On November 9, 2021, Commerce Ministry proposed to the Cabinet to issue directions to Federal Board of Revenue, for unhindered facilitation to Afghan transit goods and trucks, to pass through Pakistan’s designated sea ports and land territory beyond November 11, 2021, for a period of six months which has now expired.
Commerce Ministry has sought Cabinet nod to extend the period for another six months to facilitate transit trade. Pakistan will also seek reciprocal facilitation from Afghanistan for Pakistan transit goods and trucks, to be implemented simultaneously for passing through Afghan territory for Central Asian Republics and beyond, before signing of Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022