Afghanistan urges Pakistan to release thousands of containers from port

Pakistan authorities say they have lost millions of dollars in taxes because goods are being sent duty-free from its ports to land-locked Afghanistan, and then smuggled back across the border

November 14, 2023 10:42 pm | Updated 10:42 pm IST - Islamabad

Afghan authorities say Pakistan has stopped more than 3,000 Afghanistan-bound containers at Karachi port while demanding more tax and duty payments, causing millions of dollars in losses to traders. File

Afghan authorities say Pakistan has stopped more than 3,000 Afghanistan-bound containers at Karachi port while demanding more tax and duty payments, causing millions of dollars in losses to traders. File | Photo Credit: AFP

Afghanistan urged Pakistan on November 14 to release thousands of containers of imports it said were stuck at Karachi port since Islamabad clamped down on transnational cargo.

Pakistan authorities say they have lost millions of dollars in taxes because goods are being sent duty-free from its ports to land-locked Afghanistan, and then smuggled back across the border.

Afghan authorities say Pakistan has stopped more than 3,000 Afghanistan-bound containers at Karachi port while demanding more tax and duty payments, causing millions of dollars in losses to traders.

The goods include high-end electronics, machine parts, chemicals and textiles — all of which attract huge tariffs if imported to Pakistan. The quantities of these goods destined for Afghanistan have soared in the past two years and are unrealistic given the size of the market there, Pakistan officials say.

The issue was raised on November 14 by Nooruddin Azizi, Afghanistan's Minister of industry and Commerce, in a meeting with Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistan's caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs.

They spoke about "the transit problems and challenges of the two countries", a statement from the Afghan Embassy said.

"Hundreds of these containers have been parked since several months, while some have been stopped more than a year. The goods inside are spoiling and the traders are suffering losses," an official of the Afghan consulate in Peshawar told AFP.

The trade row is one of several thorny issues that have grown between Kabul and Islamabad since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021.

Last month Pakistan ordered hundreds of thousands of Afghans who its government says are illegal migrants to return home or face being deported.

Pakistan officials said on November 14 more than 300,000 Afghans had voluntarily left since October, when Islamabad imposed a November 1 deadline for them to depart, but Afghanistan's Taliban authorities insist the majority have been forcibly repatriated.

Pakistan said it has opened five new border crossing points to help speed up the process.

Millions of Afghans fled their homeland over the past four decades to escape war and poverty, most settling in Pakistan or Iran.

Pakistan says the deportations are to protect its "welfare and security" after a sharp rise in attacks, which the government blames on militants operating from Afghanistan.

Afghan authorities are struggling to cope with the influx of returnees — including many who have never set foot in the country.

Balochistan province information minister Jan Achakzai told reporters in Quetta that authorities had blocked at least 50,000 identity cards held by Afghans that they believed were fake.

"We suspect that 250,000 more fake ID cards have been issued. The matter is under investigation and those found guilty will face strict action," Mr. Achakzai said.

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