Pakistan approves multimodal bonded air movement for Afghanistan to aid transit trade

Nov 19, 2021: To avoid a crisis following the closure of transit trade, Pakistan has approved multimodal bonded air traffic to land from Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA 2010) does not cover multimodal air-to-land transport in accordance with Article 4. However, the Ministry of Commerce and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) believed that the transit, initially from Islamabad Airport, would not only facilitate the immediate delivery of aid to Afghanistan but also create goodwill for Pakistan in the international community.

Historically, Pakistan has always provided access to Afghan transit cargo. Before the APTTA 2010, the access was granted under the ATTA 1965. Moreover, the stoppage of transit goods access might result in a humanitarian crisis and an inflow of refugees.

For the revision of the APTTA, two meetings were held last year in Kabul and Islamabad. Following which, 22 sessions of the technical negotiations were held from April 12 to August 11 this year via video link. In these negotiations, about 95% texts had been agreed.

Therefore, the Afghan side invited its Pakistani counterpart to finalise it at a policy level in the 9th APTTCA meeting in Kabul, just before the change of the government in the neighbouring country.

A delegation of senior officials from ministries of foreign affairs, commerce, interior, finance as well as Customs and border agencies visited Kabul on October 21 this year and all the issues affecting the smooth movement of goods across the borders were discussed. IT was also decided to engage at working level.

Therefore, the Pakistani embassy had extended invitation to Afghan officials to visit Islamabad for this purpose.

In addition to the APTTA, Pakistan was bound by international obligations, including the United Nations Convention on Landlocked States 1965 and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, which provided for the passage of goods to landlocked states. 

Afghanistan, being a landlocked country, was also entitled to pass transit cargo. In addition, the passage through Afghanistan was intended to facilitate trade and transportation between the Central Asian states which are doubly locked.

The federal cabinet has allowed the move while extending the APTTA 2010 for another six months.

It has issued directions to the FBR for “unhindered facilitation” to Afghan transit goods and trucks to pass through Pakistan’s designated seaports and land territory beyond November 11 this year for a period of six months.

The cabinet also approved requesting reciprocal facilitation from Afghanistan for Pakistani transit goods and trucks to be implemented simultaneously for passing through Afghan territory for Central Asian Republics and beyond before the signing of the next APTTA.

It also allowed multimodal bonded, air to land transit, for Afghanistan from Islamabad airport through Torkham and Ghulam Khan on trucks as recommended by the inter-ministerial committee.

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