Gursal Border Gate And Lost Af-Pak Trade Opportunities
PESHAWAR: Pakistan and Afghanistan have a long history of trade partnership but the Gursal border, which connects Mohmand tribal district with Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, is closed since 2011. The closure of economic gateways has impacted business activities and people-to-people contacts on both sides of the border.
Pakistan provides Afghanistan main access to a seaport for its foreign trade, while Afghanistan provides Pakistan a direct route to Central Asia. Transit to Afghanistan through Pakistan is governed by the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) which specifies the port, route, transport, modes and customs transit procedures. With the passage of time, trade conditions for the transit of goods to and from Afghanistan through Pakistan have changed significantly.
Gursal is one of the many trade corridors of the Pak-Afghan border serving as trade routes from South Asia to Central Asia. Gursal is not less important than other trade corridors in the tribal districts like Torkham, Ghulam Khan and Angoor Adda in any respect, but due to lack of attention and facilities, this trade route could not serve in full capacity.
It is the nearest route from Kabul to Peshawar and from Jalalabad to Peshawar. Since the recent militancy, this border gate was completely closed in 2011 due to infiltration of militants from the Afghan side of the border. The closure of the cross border trade directly and adversely affected the economic condition of Mohmand district, which fell to the lowest levels in recent years. This downward trend in the economic condition directly impacted the standard of living of the people of the area.
Gursal Gate is situated in Baizai sub-division where different tribes share the same social, historic, religious, ethnic and cultural values. Some people of Khwezai and Safi tribes also live across the border. Before modern chalking-out of defined border routes and extension of mechanized traffic though paved roads in the region, this road provided main border interaction between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The estimated volume of formal annual trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan is over $2.5 billion , while unofficial trade is estimated at over $5.5 billion. Being the nearest route from Kabul and Jalalabad to Peshawar, Gursal border gate has the potential to become the hub of socio-economic development in the whole region. Trade to this border gate has the potential to be extended to Central Asian states and further to the Eastern Europe.
Trade activities will boost employment opportunities in the area. District Mohmand and adjacent areas will no longer remain backward. Trade flow will attract the local population to establish businesses and create opportunities in the region. This initiative will be a driving force for boosting development activities. As a time-saving and cost-efficient trade route, Gursal gate is the key to sustainable development. In the context of Pak-China Trade Corridor, Gursal gate presents effective trade opportunities.
Muhammad Sadiq Khan, a local businessman, says that Gorsal border is an important strategic connection with Afghanistan where exports and imports worth billions can happen. He further says that the businessmen in Mohmand suffered greatly due to the closure of the Gursal border.
“Our enterprises have declined by more than 50 percent. There was a time when our daily sales were more than Rs 1 million, but now we are down to Rs1-5 thousand per day. Thirty percent of the shops are now vacant in our local bazaars,” he states. He says that the businessmen were hoping for an opening of the border but that did not happen.
Muhammad Wasiullah, a petrol pump owner, says his petrol pump has just started operations on Gorsal border’s route. He hopes the pump will earn good profits if the border is opened.