Up to $857,000 in losses to traders daily as Afghan-Pakistan border crossing stays closed

Drivers sit near to their container trucks as they wait to enter Afghanistan at the Pakistan's border town of Chaman on August 30, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 27 October 2021

Up to $857,000 in losses to traders daily as Afghan-Pakistan border crossing stays closed

  • Suspension of cross border trade has driven more than 50,000 local traders out of business
  • Chairman Pakistan Afghanistan Chambers of Commerce says border closed by Taliban due to “visa issues“

KARACHI: The closure of Chaman, one of Pakistan’s major border crossings with Afghanistan, is costing local businesses up to Rs150 million ($857,942) per day in losses due to the suspension of cross-border trade, traders said.
The Chaman border crossing is the second-largest commercial border point between the two countries and links the Balochistan province of Pakistan with Spin Boldak in the Afghan province of Kandahar. It is one of the most regular trade routes used for transportation of goods between the two countries.
The crossing, a vital source of customs revenue for the cash-strapped government in Afghanistan, has been closed for about three weeks, despite repeated protests by truckers and others stuck waiting at the border.
“The border is closed since the first week of this month which is costing us between Rs100 million ($571,961) to Rs150 million ($857,942) per day,” Muhammad Hashim Khan Achakzai, the president of the Chaman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), told Arab News.
“Every day around 10,000 people travel on both sides of the border from Chaman,” he said, adding that laborers and traders had been waiting over 20 days now for the border to open.
As Afghanistan sinks deeper into economic crisis, neighboring countries have been increasingly worried about a mass movement of refugees. Now, the closure of Chaman and interruptions to traffic at Torkham in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, as well as the suspension of Pakistan Airlines flights from Kabul, have left Afghanistan largely cut off.




Trucks carrying containers are parked at Chaman border crossing on October 24, 2021 due to closure of the border suspending trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan through the border. (Photo courtesy Ehtisham Mufti)

Originally closed by Pakistani authorities due to security threats, disputes over issues ranging from COVID-19 to the validity of Afghan travel documents have prevented the re-opening of the Chaman crossing, despite severe hardship to truckers and local farmers.
The border was briefly opened on Sunday night and people from both sides were allowed to cross over mainly on medical grounds. However, it was closed again and no movement of goods from either side has been allowed since, according to traders.
Pakistani officials said the issue was on the Afghan side and they expected it to be resolved within the next few days. A spokesperson for the Taliban could not be reached for comment.
“They [Taliban] have some visa issues, that is why they have closed the border,” Zubair Motiwala, the Chairman of Pakistan Afghanistan joint Chambers of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI), told Arab News. “They are saying they will open it in a couple of days.”
In the meantime, however, at least 50,000 people in Chaman district who are linked to cross-border trade in a population of around 200,000 continue to suffer.
“The border closure has driven some 50,000 small and medium traders out of business,” Jalaat Khan Achakzai, a local trader and former president of CCCI, told Arab News.




Transporters and laborers wait for the opening of Chaman border on October 24,2021, (photo courtesy Ehtisham Mufti)

Traders said trucks carrying dry fruits, vegetables and other perishable items were parked on both sides of the border.
“Around 2,000 trucks carrying loaded and empty containers are waiting,” Achakzai said. “Traders are also incurring losses as they have to pay around $150 container detention charges to the shipping companies.”




Trucks carrying containers are parked at Chaman border crossing on October 24, 2021 due to closure of the border suspending trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan through the border. (Photo courtesy Ehtisham Mufti)

“Talks between local officials and people from Spin Boldak happened but without any outcome. It is vital to open the border which is impacting the livelihood of more than half a million people on both the sides of border,” said Jamaluddin Achakzai, a local trader and former president of CCCI. “The transporters are selling the fuel, petrol and diesel of their vehicles to survive.”




Trucks carrying containers are parked at Chaman border crossing on October 24, 2021 due to closure of the border suspending trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan through the border. (Photo courtesy Ehtisham Mufti)

Insiders who have traveled across the border said the condition of both Pakistani and Afghan transporters was worsening.
“Condition ofPakistani and Afghan truckers on the Afghan side is even more painful as they don’t have enough financial resources to survive,” Ehtisham Mufti, a senior Pakistani journalist who recently traveled through the area to Kandahar, told Arab News. “Human tragedy can be avoided if immediate measures are taken in time.”




Transporters and laborers wait for the opening of Chaman border on October 24,2021, (photo courtesy Ehtisham Mufti)

 


First ever Pakistani meat consignment exported to Jordan - commerce advisor

Updated 29 November 2021

First ever Pakistani meat consignment exported to Jordan - commerce advisor

  • Last month, Pakistan announced that Jordan had allowed three Pakistani producers to export meat to the kingdom
  • The companies are the Organic Meat Company Limited (TOMCL), Tata Best Food Limited, Tazji Meat and Food

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani commerce advisor Abdul Razak Dawood said on Monday Pakistan’s Tata Best Food Limited had exported the country’s first meat consignment to Jordan.
Last month, Pakistan announced that Jordan had allowed three Pakistani producers to export meat to the kingdom. These are Organic Meat Company Limited (TOMCL), Tata Best Food Limited, Tazji Meat and Food.
Pakistan ranks in the top 20 among global halal meat exporting nations, and a 2017 study by the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) showed that the industry was growing by 27 percent annually.
The country’s exports of meat and meat preparations went up by 10 percent in the last fiscal year to $334 million, though they declined by four percent during the first two months of the current fiscal year to $49.55 million, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
“We congratulate TATA Foods on exporting Pakistan's first ever consignment meat has been exported to Jordan,” Dawood said on Twitter. “Promotion & facilitation of non-traditional products to new markets constitutes MOC’s [ministry of commerce] diversification policy.”


Last year, TOMCL became the first Pakistani company to get approval from the Saudi Food & Drug Authority to export frozen meat via sea to the kingdom, as it won a high-value contract of $3.9 million to export 100 metric tons of frozen boneless meat to Saudi Arabia.
In September, the Karachi-based halal meat processing and export enterprise secured a $1 million contract to supply frozen boneless meat to Saudi Arabia for a period of 10 months.

 


Pakistan strike twice but Bangladesh keep battling

Updated 29 November 2021

Pakistan strike twice but Bangladesh keep battling

  • The hosts reached 115-6 at lunch on the fourth day, stretching their slim first innings lead to 159 runs
  • Resuming on 39-4, the hosts got off to a positive start with Mushfqur Rahim hitting a boundary off first ball

CHITTAGONG: Hasan Ali and Sajid Khan struck for Pakistan in the morning but Bangladesh battled through to build out their lead in the first Test against Pakistan in Chittagong on Monday.
The hosts reached 115-6 at lunch on the fourth day, stretching their slim first innings lead to 159 runs, with Liton Das batting 32 alongside concussion substitute Nurul Hasan (0) at the break.
Resuming on 39-4, the hosts got off to a positive start with Mushfqur Rahim hitting a boundary off the first ball of the day bowled by Hasan.
But two balls later he left the wrong delivery and departed for 16 after Hasan struck off-stump.
First innings century maker Liton Das joined overnight batsman Yasir Ali to prevent further collapse.
Just when they looked ready to prosper, Shaheen Afridi’s low bounce hit the helmet of Yasir, who retired hurt after making 36.
Liton survived on 26 when he was given out caught at short leg off Sajid Khan.
The replay showed that the ball only hit his pad and was going down the leg.
Sajid was rewarded for his persistency as he trapped Mehidy Hasan leg before for 11.
Substitute Nurul replaced Yasir after Mehidy’s dismissal and barely survived a strong caught behind appeal just before lunch.


New coronavirus cases fall to 1.5 year low in Pakistan 

Updated 29 November 2021

New coronavirus cases fall to 1.5 year low in Pakistan 

  • 176 new infections and nine deaths recorded in the last 24 hours according to government data
  • Country last saw daily case count lower than 176 on April 5 when Pakistan recorded 172 cases

ISLAMABAD: Coronavirus cases in Pakistan fell to a 1.5 year low on Monday, with only 176 new infections recorded in the last 24 hours.
Pakistan, a country of over 220 million people, has so far reported 1,284,365 total infections and less than 30,000 deaths.
According to Pakistan’s federal coronavirus response body, the NCOC, nine people died of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, and the positivity ratio has fallen to 0.59 percent.


The country last saw a daily case count lower than 176 on April 5 when 172 cases were recorded.
Pakistan is reporting 331 new infections on average each day, 6 percent of the peak — the highest daily average reported on June 17.
Pakistan has administered at least 122,319,215 doses of COVID vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs 2 doses, this is enough to have vaccinated about 28.2 percent of the country’s population.

 


Pakistan says hopes to keep educational institutes open amid new Omicron variant

Updated 29 November 2021

Pakistan says hopes to keep educational institutes open amid new Omicron variant

  • Detection of Omicron has triggered global alarm as governments around the world scramble to impose new travel curbs 
  • Growing fears the variant could resist vaccinations and upend a nascent economic reopening after a two-year global pandemic

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood said on Monday the Pakistan government wanted to continue education activities and keep schools and colleges open amid reports of a new COVID-19 variant named Omicron.
The Omicron variant spread around the world on Sunday, with new cases found in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia even as more countries imposed travel restrictions to try to seal themselves off.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was not yet clear whether Omicron, first detected in Southern Africa, is more transmissible than other variants, or if it causes more severe disease.
Speaking to the media in Lahore, Mahmood said he was not aware of the details about the new strain but “there should not be any disruption in education.”
“Examinations would be held on time and with complete syllabus as decided by the education ministers,” The News quoted Mahmood as saying.
Pakistan resumed regular classes at all educational institutes around the country last month.
On Saturday, Pakistan banned travel from six South African countries and Hong Kong following the emergence of the new coronavirus variant.
“Based on the emergence of the new covid variant, notification has been issued to restrict travel from 6 south African countries and Hong Kong,” Minister for Planning, Development Asad Umar had announced on Twitter. “The emergence of new variant makes it even more urgent to vaccinate all eligible citizens 12 years and older.”


The WHO has said preliminary data suggested that there were increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, “but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection.”
It said understanding the level of severity of Omicron “will take days to several weeks.”
The detection of Omicron has triggered global alarm as governments around the world scrambled to impose new travel curbs and financial markets sold-off, fearing the variant could resist vaccinations and upend a nascent economic reopening after a two-year global pandemic.
In its statement, the WHO said it was working with technical experts to understand the potential impact of the variant on existing countermeasures against COVID-19, including vaccines.

 


Pakistani PM launches Al Qadir University for science education along with religion, mysticism

Updated 29 November 2021

Pakistani PM launches Al Qadir University for science education along with religion, mysticism

  • Al Qadir University to help revive tradition of bringing science and Islam together once again, PM says 
  • Last month, Khan set up ‘Rehmatul-lil-Aalameen Authority’ to portray ‘true image’ of Islam

iSLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday launched an academic block of the “first great seminary,” Al Qadir University, where modern sciences would be taught along with religion, sufism and moral values.
Last month, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also set up a ‘Rehmatul-lil-Aalameen (blessing for all the worlds) Authority,’ which he said would portray the true image of Islam, research the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and monitor the media and school curriculum.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan is launching Pakistan’s first great seminary Al Qadir University where young people are taught modern sciences along with religious education, mysticism and high morality,” State information minister Farrukh Habib said on Twitter on Sunday, without disclosing when the institution would begin functioning.

 

“What is the purpose of Al-Qadir University, that how can our religion become relevant in the lives of our people,” Khan said in a video shared by Habib, adding that he wanted to revive the tradition of bringing science and Islam together, as was the case in the past.
“This [university] will develop the minds in Pakistan,” the PM added. “Right now, our [Pakistani] youth is highly influenced by the West … but as humans are they [youth] growing in the right way, are they going down the right path?”