Pakistan’s move to reopen border will strengthen business ties, says Afghan special envoy 

Afghan trucks line up as they wait to cross the Pakistan-Afghanistan border closed amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in Torkham some 54 kilometers from Peshawar on March 16, 2020. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 12 July 2020

Pakistan’s move to reopen border will strengthen business ties, says Afghan special envoy 

  • Pakistani-Afghan border was sealed in mid-March as part of containment measures against COVID-19
  • Kabul-Islamabad trade was $1.2 billion per annum before the coronavirus outbreak 

PESHAWAR: The Pakistani government’s decision to reopen all main border checkpoints with Afghanistan will help increase business and reduce trust deficit between the two countries, Afghan special envoy Muhammed Umer Daudzai told Arab News on Sunday, as the Kharlachi crossing in Kurram district, Khyber Pakhtunkwa resumed operations after a long coronavirus closure.

The Pakistani-Afghan border was sealed in mid-March as part of containment measures against the COVID-19 outbreak. After reopening its crossings at Chaman in Balochistan, and Torkham, Ghulam Khan and Angoor Adda in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the past few weeks to facilitate trade, Pakistan on Saturday unsealed Kharlachi, which is the fifth main checkpoint on the borderline.

“These all are very positive signs. This (border opening) is a step toward right direction. This will increase businesses, people-to-people contact and remove trust-deficit,” the Afghan special envoy for Pakistan said.

Pakistani Foreign Office spokeswoman Aisha Farooqui also said the border’s reopening will help strengthen bilateral ties.

“The opening of the fifth Kharlachi border in Kurram tribal district with Afghanistan tends to encourage trade between the two countries, which will help strengthen their ties in future,” she told Arab News.

According to Faiz Muhammad from the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), Pakistan’s move to reopen the five border crossings with Afghanistan was “a remarkable initiative” and would have a huge positive on trade between the two countries.

“Pakistan can regain Afghanistan trade market if it offers incentives to traders and reduce duty on items,” said the senior executive at SCCI, the chamber which role is to stimulate trade and business activity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province in which most border crossings with Afghanistan are located.

He said that the quantum of Kabul-Islamabad trade was $1.2 billion per annum before the coronavirus outbreak and dropped to an estimated $1 billion after the border closure.
 


Pakistan Medical Association, doctors fear coronavirus surge as lockdowns lifted nationwide

Updated 07 August 2020

Pakistan Medical Association, doctors fear coronavirus surge as lockdowns lifted nationwide

  • Islamabad’s PIMS hospital had less than 10 coronavirus patients before Eid Al-Adha but new patients coming in since
  • Pakistan announced on Thursday it was opening virtually all sectors closed down in March to stem the spread of COVID-19

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and infectious disease experts on Thursday warned of a possible surge in coronavirus cases due to a premature lifting of restrictions, as the government announced a day earlier that it was opening virtually all sectors closed down in March to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Pakistan shut schools and land borders nearly five months ago, decided to limit domestic and international flights and discouraged large gatherings to try to halt the spread of the coronavirus. But with infections and deaths down nearly 80 percent since their peak as per government records, the government decided on Thursday to lift the lockdowns to help the country return to normalcy.
Pakistan celebrated the Eid Al-Adha religious holiday last week. After the last major Islamic festival, of Eid Al-Fitr, in May, infections rose to their peak in Pakistan.
Dr. Nasim Akhtar, head of infectious diseases at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in Islamabad, told Arab News the coronavirus ward at her hospital only had five to six patients before Eid, but new patients had once again started coming in.
“Cases registered a sharp increase after Eid Al-Fitr, and this can happen now again with the lifting of the lockdowns,” she said, adding that the government should have waited at least two more weeks to reopen restaurants and other public places.
“This is a bit early, and may worsen the situation again,” Akhtar said.
The World Health Organization has said “extreme vigilance” was needed as countries begin to exit from lockdowns, amid global concerns about a second wave of infections.
Germany earlier reported an acceleration in new coronavirus infections after it took early steps to ease its lockdown. South Korea, another country that had succeeded in limiting virus infections, saw a new outbreak.
“The next week is crucial to see if the infections soar as just one week has passed now since the Eid holidays,” Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, secretary-general of the Pakistan Medical Association, told Arab News.
Cases could also surge during the Islamic month of Muharram, which begins in late August, he said, and due to independence day celebrations on August 14. Huge crowds come out all over the world, including in Muslim-majority Pakistan, to commemorate the slaying of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh).
“We think that the opening of all these things in a hurry ... probably this will create problems for us,” Sajjad said.
He said infections had risen sharply in the United States and Brazil after the nations lifted restrictions when cases initially declined. Spain reported 1,772 new coronavirus infections on Aug 6, marking the biggest jump since a national lockdown was lifted in June.
University of Health Sciences vice chancellor Javed Akram, however, called the reopening of public places a “wise decision.”
“The government cannot keep the cities and businesses under lockdown forever,” he said. “People should follow health guidelines to fight the virus.”