The Federal Government recently took the decision to open Torkham Border 24/7 along with the provincial government, which has gained significant and positive international mention. The government did this to accomplish more than just the facilitation of business, but also for humanitarian reasons in easing the difficulty of Afghan patients using Pakistani medical facilities and to strengthen relations with Afghanistan. President Ashraf Ghani during his visit to Pakistan in June 2019, mentioned the importance of opening the Torkham border for 24 hours.
After operationalising #Torkham Border 24/7, that resulted in an increase in trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan; Government and NLC will now work to upgrade facilities, improve processes and further open other border points including Angoor Adda & Ghulam Khan to enhance Trade pic.twitter.com/lfKZ5sqjEE
— PTI (@PTIofficial) January 5, 2020
The recently inaugurated Torkham 24/7 border post in September is one of the few around the world that aims to work all around the clock, being managed by NLC, is expected to make logistics easier. NLC’s widespread presence across Pakistan ensures accessibility through the infrastructure built under their mega construction projects.
Such projects trim road freight costs and open new avenues for trade. The institution has gone further to manage the operations of border terminals and dry ports and is working with Asian Development Bank on projects constructing of state of the art border crossing terminals at Torkham and Chaman.
NLC currently is the primary service provider to Pakistan Customs for accommodation, office equipment, electricity and internet for the operation of Web-Based One Custom (WeBOC) system at the border terminals.
In addition, the organization manages the handling of cargo through weighing bridges, vehicle scanners, reach stackers, cranes, fork lifters and even manual labor (where required), thus facilitating Customs in the collection of revenue through duties on imports and exports.
Khyber Pass Economic Corridor and Torkham Border received heavy criticism earlier on their economic and technical viability, some calling the project a ‘road to nowhere’. However, World Bank country director Illango Patchamuthu provided sufficient information debunking all criticism.
Recently, data from customs and FBR has shown favorable results from Torkham borders operations.
1. Based on 3-month customs data, this chart that tells a fascinating story! Basic Torkham upgrade for 24-7 ops cost Rs. 100 mln;
Annualised impact: Rs. 32 bln ($200 mln) increase in exports; Rs. 4.4 bln increase in import duties & taxes. Actual impact could be much higher. pic.twitter.com/Q20x3QxXWt
— Taimur Khan Jhagra (@Jhagra) January 6, 2020
The additional cost of basic upgrade of facilities and staff at Torkham from mid-September to mid-December cost RS100 million while the annualized impact of the increase in the value of exports for the same time period amounted to RS32 billion ($200 million).
Reported in November 2019, despite the recent opening of the border full time, cargo traffic had already increased by 56%. Congestion at the border had reduced despite the daily vehicle count has increased from 586 to 917. Provincial Finance Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra disclosed that in just the five days from September 2-7 when the border was opened 2032 vehicles made its way through the night shift alone.
The additional cost of basic upgrade of facilities and staff at Torkham from mid-September to mid-December cost RS100 million while the annualised impact of increase in value of exports for the same time period amounted to RS32 billion ($200 million)
In the past, long delays on this border forced transporters to use other routes. With the ease brought upon the innovation of day and night opening, transporters have flocked back to use this route. Already, freight charges are falling because the time needed to cross the border has fallen dramatically which will pass on benefits to the end consumer as the cost of doing business has fallen.
Also, 24/7 opening and facilitation in the process has helped the cargo carriers in prioritizing their travel timings, as trucks with fruits and vegetables choose to travel in the day time to reduce spoilage, while those loaded with coal, cement, and construction steel bars move in the night time.
Read more: NLC sets up free medical camp at Torkham
The decision, coupled with successful diplomacy by the federal government that the provincial government has facilitated, and a rapidly changing regional scenario, has its impact observed in the increase transit trade through Pakistan in recent months.