Islamabad: After a three-year hiatus, Pakistan and China are set to resume trade from Monday through the Khunjerab Pass – the only land route between the two all-weather allies, a media report said on Saturday.
The Khunjerab Pass was closed in November 2019 to contain the transmission of the COVID-19 virus between the two countries.
The arrangements to reopen the border point for bilateral trade and other activities under the China-Pakistan Eco nomic Corridor (CPEC) have been finalised by both sides, the Dawn newspaper reported.
The USD 60 billion CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Balochistan with China’s Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The CPEC is a network of roads, railways, pipelines, and ports in Pakistan connecting China to the Arabian Sea.
Gilgit-Baltistan Home Secretary Rana Mohammad Saleem Afzal said that officials on both sides agreed to reopen Khunjerab Pass for trade and travel activities from April 3. He added that the process of issuing border passes would start soon, the report said.
“Most important aspect is that it’s a CPEC route. CPEC consignments will enter Pakistan through Khunjerab Pass from China,” he said.
Under an agreement, trade and travel activities between the two countries through the Khunjerab Pass start annually on April 1 and close on November 30. Daily bus service also plies from the Sost Valley of the Gilgit-Baltistan region to the Xinjiang province of China, the report said.
The first trade activity between China and Pakistan under the CPEC started via the Karakoram Highway in November 2016.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, said that the federal government had been working to revive CPEC activities, the report said. She added that all hurdles in the bilateral trade’s way would be removed.
The prolonged closure of the Khunjerab Pass caused immense financial hardships to the local business community, and thousands of workers became jobless, the report said, quoting officials.
During the last three years, the Pass was occasionally opened for emergency cargo transportation from China to Pakistan on specific days.
The volume of trade between the two countries would increase after the reopening of the Khunjerab Pass, Gilgit-Baltistan Collector of Customs Syed Fawad Ali Shah was quoted as saying in the report.
He said all required arrangements had been finalised for normal trade at the Sost dry port. Shah added that he met traders, the port management and other stakeholders, who were all happy and assured the administration of their cooperation in smooth trade activities at the dry port.
Haji Liaquat of the Gilgit-Baltistan Importers and Exporters Association said that the people affiliated with trade between the two countries were optimistic about the revival of economic activities in the region, according to the report.
He added that the people of the region and the government exchequer suffered losses worth billions of rupees owing to the prolonged halt of trade at the Sost dry port.