Islamabad: The implementation of the
Pakistan-Afghanistan transit trade agreement has been
postponed indefinitely after differences emerged on the
interpretation of key clauses of the pact on the day it was
meant to become operational.
A two-day meeting of the transit trade coordination
authority of the two countries ended on Saturday without
achieving consensus on clauses on bank guarantees,
international requirements for sealable trucks, biometric
systems and installation of tracking systems.
"Unfortunately we could not agree on joint
interpretation of some of the clauses and decided that
operationlisation of the agreement was not possible on
February 12th", Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood said in a
brief statement after the meeting.
Mahmood said the coordination authority`s next meeting
will be held in six weeks and both countries will make efforts
to resolve issues.
"The parties will also make efforts for a new
operational date within four months," said Mahmood, who
co-chaired the meeting with Afghan Deputy Commerce Minister
Mohammad Sharif Sharifi.
"The delegates tried their best to resolve these
issues," Sharifi said after the meeting.
The key clauses in the pact were used as "bargaining
chips" by Pakistan due to concerns about smuggling under the
new Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement, The Express
Tribune newspaper quoted its sources as saying.
Differences on interpreting key clauses indicated the
pressure exerted on Pakistan by the United States to sign the
deal in haste, the report said.
The pact was pushed for by the US and its memorandum
of understanding was inked in Washington about two years ago.
Under the agreement, Afghanistan has the right to
import Indian goods by sea only.
The coordination authority is responsible for
discussing issues related to the pact and working out problems
arising from the implementation of the agreement.
The daily quoted insiders as saying that the biggest
stumbling block was the interpretation of clauses related to
bank guarantees for trucks and customs security and financial
"Pakistan has unilaterally interpreted this clause,
which is not acceptable to the Afghan side... and the
agreement cannot be reached", an official of the Afghan
embassy was quoted as saying.
Pakistan`s Federal Board of Revenue has finalised
rules for the transit trade pact but a notification has been
put on hold as the Afghan side has certain reservations.
These pertain to freedom of transit and the commercial
presence of Afghan trucks in Pakistan. Afghanistan has also objected to a new tax amounting to 0.85 per cent of the customs value of transit goods that
has been levied by the government of Sindh province.
"This is an explicit contradiction of the 1965
agreement as well as the new agreement," the Afghan Embassy
official was quoted as saying.
Both countries could not make headway on the
installation of biometric systems at border crossings for
They also could not agree on a uniform demurrage
charge and installation of tracking devices on trucks to check
dumping of Afghanistan-bound goods in Pakistani markets.