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    Traders say they can't export goods via Pakistan

    KABUL (PAN): Afghan traders complained on Wednesday they have been unable to export their goods to foreign countries through Pakistan over the past 42 days due to harsh restrictions.

    Hundreds of trucks laden with dried and fresh fruits, herbals, carpets, precious and semi-precious stones have been stranded on both sides of the border due to technical problems in the recently-signed Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA), said Khan Jan Alakozay, the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries chairman.

    Flanked by a number of traders, Alakozay told a press conference in Kabul the agreement allowed vehicles to travel to any city in the two countries. However, he said Pakistani vehicles were allowed to enter Afghan cities, but trucks from this side of the frontier were refused entry into Peshawar.

    Pakistani officials want Afghan traders either to provide 25 percent of the vehicle price in guarantee under the pact or transport their goods through the National Logistic Cell (NLC).

    Alakozay said Afghan traders were unable to meet the demands for different reasons. He said an NLC vehicle was 40 feet long and disallowed to enter India. However, Pakistani vehicles could to easily travel to Central Asian states through Afghanistan, which has sought no guarantees.

    He urged the Afghan government to take urgent measures for resolving the issue. Otherwise, he warned food items on stranded trucks could go rotten. Afghan traders pay $100 a day in vehicle rent.

    Alakozay suggested Pakistani traders should be dealt with the way Afghans were treated to force Islamabad to resolve the problem. He said their problems with Pakistan were linked to transportation and custom duties.

    The Ministry of Transport and the Customs Department had failed to resolve the problems facing Afghan traders, he alleged. The Ministry of Transport should send its representatives to Pakistan to discuss the matter, he said.

    The Ministry of Commerce had played its role in resolving the problems between the two countries, Alakozay said, suggesting the Ministry of Finance take up the matter with Pakistani officials at the earliest.

    The transport ministry spokesman, Nangyalai Qalatwal, said transit trade problems had nothing to do with them. The ACCI wanted the transport ministry to play its part, he added.

    A number of Afghan traders criticised the government for entering a disputed trade agreement with Pakistan, saying they were faced with numerous hardships.

    A dried fruit exporter, Haji Abdul Ghani, said hundreds of Afghan vehicles loaded with food items had been stuck at Chaman and Torkham border crossings over the past many days. He feared the food could go rotten if the vehicles remained stranded.

    ma/mud