Government decided to keep Customs offices at Torkham to remain open 24 hours

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LANDI KOTAL: The government has decided to keep offices of Customs at Torkham border open all the seven days of the week to promote bilateral trade with Afghanistan.

The decision was announced during a visit of Corps Commander Peshawar Lt Gen Nazir Ahmad Butt to Torkham border on Tuesday. He was accompanied by Inspector General Frontier Corps (North) Maj Gen Waseem Ashraf, Peshawar Commissioner Shahab Ali Shah and Political Agent Islamzeb Khan.

The corps commander was given a detailed briefing about steps to be taken about enhancing trade with Afghanistan and related facilities to be provided to traders of both the countries along with other facilities provided to the Afghans coming to Pakistan via Torkham.

Decision to enhance declining trade with Afghanistan

He also reviewed progress of different facilities including the uplift of Customs terminal and the ‘one-window’ operation to traders along with installation of close circuit security cameras and sunshade atop the capsule passage for Afghans.

He said that Customs officials were instructed to bring further improvements in the newly introduced Web Based One Customs (WeBOC) system for speedy clearance of trade goods to and from Afghanistan.

However, the official said that Customs clearing would be reverted to the previous manual system if the department failed to enhance its internet system and ensure provision of round the clock electricity that were two main demands of the local traders.

The political agent announced abolishment of furnishing of quarantine certificate by the fruit and vegetable importers and exporters as it had adversely affected import and export of fresh fruits and vegetables via the Torkham border.

He said that the new arrangements would boost bilateral trade between the two neighbouring countries as it was adversely affected in the recent years owing to strained diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The experts said that the annual quantum of bilateral trade between the two countries plunged to a mere $800 million by the end of 2017 that had reached $2.3 billion in 2015-16.

The political agent said that concrete walls built in front of the local markets would be removed to facilitate the movement of local traders to the Customs and political administration offices.

He said that the administration was also striving to create job opportunities for local people, who were affected by the introduction of the new border management policy at Torkham.

PROTEST: Scores of shopkeepers and traders of Landi Kotal Bazaar held a protest demonstration against suspension of power supply, shortage of drinking water, poor sanitation and imposition of illegal taxes by the political administration.

Holding black flags and chanting slogans, the protesting shopkeepers marched up to local press club.

Speaking on the occasion, trader leader Amjad Shinwari alleged that political administration was still taxing local traders by issuing of permits for all edibles despite clear announcement by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor about its immediate annulment.

He alleged that khasadars were also demanding money from them at the checkposts along the Peshawar-Torkham Highway that was a violation of prime minister’s policy about abolition of Agency Development Fund.

Suleman Khan, another trader, said that power supply to Landi Kotal Bazaar had been suspended for the last three years despite the fact that traders were ready to install power meters at their shops.

He said that shopkeepers were also faced with shortage of drinking water as the pumping machine at Landi Khana near Torkham had been out of order for the last few months.

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