Bilateral impasse


The recent standoff at the Torkham border, where Pakistani and Afghan security officials failed to reach an agreement on its reopening, is a matter of great concern. This impasse has led to a significant disruption in trade and is causing considerable economic losses to both nations.
The root of the problem lies in the unfortunate gun battle that erupted between Pakistani and Afghan border forces, resulting in the closure of the busiest trade crossing between the two countries. The closure of this volatile border crossing consistently disrupts business activities and causes prolonged delays for containers, trailers and trucks, sometimes spanning weeks. The consequences of these disruptions are manifold.
First and foremost, the financial burden falls heavily on shipping companies and traders. The added costs incurred due to these delays can be crippling. Such a situation is untenable for the business community, which is struggling to recover amidst challenging economic conditions. These disruptions also force Afghan traders to seek alternative routes, even though they prefer the Torkham border. This not only adds to their costs but also undermines the potential for healthy bilateral trade.
Both Pakistan and Afghanistan rely heavily on agriculture, with fresh fruits and vegetables being vital sectors. Afghanistan, often considered the cradle of global fruit production, boasts a rich variety of fruit trees. However, decades of political unrest and warfare have severely hindered its ability to export these products. The recent revival of the Afghan fruit industry has been a welcome development, with Pakistan being a significant buyer.
Data reveals that a substantial portion of Afghan exports goes to India and Pakistan, with the latter accounting for 34.5% of the purchases. This trade is vital for both countries, particularly given the importance of fresh produce in meeting the food security needs of Afghanistan and providing raw materials for the dried fruit sector.
The closure of the Torkham border has had a direct impact on Pakistan’s markets, which are currently flooded with Afghan fruits, including the famed pomegranates. These fruits, which were traditionally exported via Torkham, are now being transported through alternative routes to Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
To resolve this ongoing crisis, it is imperative that high-level diplomatic channels between Kabul and Islamabad be activated. The business community connected to the Torkham border has voiced their concerns, emphasizing the importance of being good neighbors and finding a swift resolution.
Pakistan is grappling with an unprecedented financial crisis, and the border closure only adds to the suffering of its business community. Moreover, this situation harms not only bilateral trade but also fosters distance between two nations that share historical and cultural ties.
It is crucial for the authorities on both sides to recognize the urgency of this matter and work towards a peaceful and mutually beneficial resolution for the sake of regional stability and prosperity.