KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan has assured business community that the blockage of containers at Pakistan-Afghanistan border would be removed within a week, and traffic would resume as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was talking to a delegation of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) at Punjab Chief Minister House on Sunday.

“Pak-Afghan border issue has been prolonged for quite some time now and will be resolved in a week,” a FPCCI statement quoted Prime Minister.

In March, Pakistan had to seal its borders with Afghanistan and Iran as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of coronavirus. In late April, an understanding was reached with the Afghan authorities and border crossings at Trokham and Chaman were opened for three days in a week.

The Pak-Afghan trade volume is around $1.2 billion. Pakistan’s main exports to Afghanistan are cement, sugar, ghee, oils, wheat, sugar, industrial material, poultry products, medicines, health care equipment and wood furniture, while it imports fresh and dried fruits, carpets and other perishable items.

Businessmen apprised PM of problems being faced by exporters and importers in cross border trading particularly Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade, and also discussed  ease of doing business, enhancement of country’s export, input costs and taxation issues.

Mian Anjum Nisar, President FPCCI, underlined the need for Pakistan to boost its exports to reduce worsening trade deficit. “COVID-19 has added to miseries of the export sector amid global slowdown and in the wake of corona pandemic many global brands are facing bankruptcy whose impact will also fall on the export industry of Pakistan”.

“Pakistan’s trade and industry is facing severe liquidity crunch due to imposition of multiple taxes and stuck-up tax refunds, which need to be addressed on priority basis for the survival of our economy”.

Anjum Nisar said Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Interior should find solution to remove hurdles impeding foreign trade particularly exports to Afghanistan.

President FPCCI highlighted that SME sector was the most vulnerable and it was anticipated that the SME sector would require immediate monetary aid. “Government should interest free loans to the SMEs for the survival of the sector otherwise SMEs would be shut down due to insufficient funds”.

Anjum Nisar highlighted that wheat quota needed to be increased in order to stabilize its price and availability in the market.

Prime Minister Imran Khan consciously focused on all pressing issues pertaining to the economy and business community and responded positively and assured that all submissions would be considered seriously and action would be taken upon on priority basis.