Border markets and reduction in smuggling

Yesterday, Prime Minister Imran Khan instructed the relevant Departments to accelerate the measures concerning the establishment of border markets in Pakistan’s bordering areas with Afghanistan and Iran, and planning a wide-ranging strategy at the earliest. Prime Minister was chairing the meeting to review the progress and development on the project of border markets in bordering areas with Afghanistan and Iran.

Prime Minister Imran Khan was of view that markets will bring business activities and prosperity for the  people living in the merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and bordering areas of Balochistan. He said, “Smuggling effects national resources, income and destroy industry.” These markets would not only create employment opportunities for the local population but also helpful in reduction of smuggling on both borders. Presently, seven border markets are being established on Pak-Afghan and Pak- Iran border, five in KPK and two in Balochistan. Few of these markets will be activated in February 2021. Government is also working on a project for construction of 18 proposed border markets after necessary consultation and coordination with Iran and Afghanistan. The government efforts for initiating business activities for the people of border areas are well acknowledged and would be beneficial for the youth of the area. It will also be helpful in reduction of social crimes in the area. But as per analysis and ground realities, the issue of smuggling of goods and commodities across Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran border will not be reduced by the establishment of border markets. It will only facilitate the smugglers and other mafia’s in the country.

In fact, the phenomenon of the smuggling at  Pak-Afghan border is due to the Afghan transit trade, when the Afghan goods smuggled back to Pakistan immediately it crossed Pakistan borders at Turkhum or Chamin. These non-custom paid items remain an attractive source of money in the masses. Therefore, many people fear that these border markets may not turn into a hub of smuggled items of Afghan transit trade. Due to reason , there is huge difference between the statistics provided by the Pakistan and Afghan government to UNO trade body in 2019. As per Pakistan the volume of transit trade is $ 44. 4 billion and Afghanistan stated it 14.8 billion dollars. The difference of about $ 30 billion is due to the fact that these items were transferred officially from Pakistan to Afghanistan but than returned back illegally into Pakistan through back doors. Similar is the case at Pak-Iran border, where Iranian oil and nom-custom paid items are being smuggled into the country.  By setting up border market government will be able to initiate economic activity in border areas. For ensuring that only legal items should be traded, government needs to take additional steps. To eradicate the menace of smuggling and black money government must bombed on to the law enforcement agencies including custom, Anti- Narcotics, FC and others performing duties at border check points. Otherwise, no policy and measure will not be fruitful until implementing apparatus is not functioning properly.