By Farman Nawaz (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)
The traders of Pakistan were expecting some announcement at the recent visit of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani Visit to Kabul. But the two counter parts seemed more interested in countering terrorism. Though terrorism must be the top priority of the two sides but trade can also bring closer these two wary neighbors. Despite the fact that for the last three decades these two nations have got the chance to come closer to each other but still there are a lot of misleading notions and misunderstandings between them. This mistrust always leads to annoyance.
It feels uncomfortable at this stage to tell Afghanis that what we are thinking about them but it will be better to discuss problems before the situation gets worsen. From the beginning we must try to solve our issues. Here in Pakistan it is said that Afghani friends advise Pakistanis traders not to disclose their identity while moving around in Afghanistan. Even it is considered safer to disguise and if inquired then it is better to identify oneself as an Indian as Pakistanis believe that in Afghanistan Indians are respected more than Pakistanis. Though it seems very awkward because even few years back Pakistanis moved freely in Afghanistan and even still I know few people who are working in Afghanistan and they are very happy but still we must pay attention to the people who are raising this kind of objection. But on the other side if it is true then we Pakistanis must also think that why our Afghan brethren turned against us?
Here in Pakistan it is strongly believed that Indians are intriguing against Pakistanis in Afghanistan. But we must also ask ourselves that who are intriguing against us in Arab countries where Indians are better paid than Pakistanis? Is this an Indian tactic that now England is not willing to provide their cricket grounds to our team? We must come out of the Indian fear fantasy. If we believe that for three decades we were helping our Afghan brothers then how it is possible for Indians to replace Pakistanis in Afghani markets. But if our own market is full of Chinese items then how we can blame some one else to occupy our position in Afghanistan.
Here in Pakistan it was hoped that after Pak-Afghan trade agreement, Pakistan will have the opportunity to have access to Afghan markets but it is strange that every one is objecting this agreement. Traders association of Peshawar has raised many objections about it. Even Motorway authorities were complaining about the right hand drive vehicles coming from Afghanistan. Strangely the same vehicles and drivers will face no difficulty in India.
Pakistani traders have complaints about the zero tax on Indian items in Afghanistan while Pakistani items are heavily taxed. This heavy taxation compels them to adapt to illegal methods like smuggling. In the same way Indian items are smuggled to Pakistan which causes losses to Pakistani manufacturers and importers. As smuggling from India to Afghanistan is difficult that may be the reason that Afghan authorities have levied no tax on Indian items to help Indian traders to compete with Pakistani articles but still this issue needs the attention of Afghan authorities.
This issue of smuggling is a very serious problem for the provincial government of Khyber Pukhunkhwa. Last year when a Judge of Peshawar high court blamed the provincial government for this smuggling so the senior minister of Awami National Party used derogatory words for the said Judge while talking to media. He strongly rejected the blame of smuggling and asked the court to provide proof that how it is possible in the presence of international forces on the borders.
Besides smuggling issue Pakistani traders should also think that Afghani traders find Indian markets more profitable than Pakistani markets. So Pakistani authorities must also facilitate Afghani traders because only a solution to this problem can bring harmony in our trade relations otherwise this friction will lead to a situation which will result in deadlock on Pak-Afghan trade agreement.
However we Pakistanis and Afghanis should very clearly understand one thing that the ups and downs in our trade relations must not upset our religious, cultural, and political relations. Afghan trade is in its initial stages and it will come across many hurdles. Secondly it may hurt Afghans but it is a fact that Afghanistan is still not an self-determining country like Pakistan. Still it is under the yoke of international forces and Afghanis will have to look towards them for many issues. He is Pakistan still after six decades we are waiting for foreign help for our economy and floods. Afghan war was more severe than these recent floods in Pakistan. It is also our fault that we could not control the civil war in Afghanistan and now it is at the mercy of others.