The Pakistani government is constructing a mega state-of-the-art Border Customs Complex at Torkhem to facilitate regional trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics (CARs).
“The complex is the first of its kind in the country, which will make border crossing systematic and fully computerised and augment the trade volume on the historic route,” Peshawar Customs Collector Qurban Ali Khan said on Tuesday.
The state-of-the-art customs complex would improve facilities related to clearance of goods laden trucks crossing the border to Afghanistan and CARs, he added.
The complex covering 700 kanals of land would house customs and immigration offices, two-way customs and immigration terminals, checking and scanning plazas for pedestrians, passengers and cargo vehicles along with other infrastructure,” Qurban Ali said.
“Border Customs Complex is a step towards achievement of goals set under Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC), a partnership of 10 countries and six multilateral development partners working to promote development through cooperation, leading to accelerated economic growth and poverty reduction,” he said.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing $300 million loan for execution of the project on soft term basis to Pakistan while National Logistic Cell (NLC) was implementing the project.
The project also includes construction of a similar border complex at Wagha post on the Pak-India border and at Chaman in Balochistan, he said, and added that presently work on the Torkhem complex had been started.
Presently he said NLC had acquired 700 kanals of land in Torkhem. Soon, work on construction of Customs Complex would start.
Presently, he said, the checking and clearing process at Torkhem was cumbersome due to lack of facilities and the goods trucks took around 24 hours to cross the border towards Afghanistan.
After the construction of the Customs Complex, the clearance time of goods vehicles will reduce from 24 hours to one hour, he added.
Similarly, he said, advanced scanners would also help in plugging the menace of smuggling as in the prevailing system of goods clearance, it was impossible for customs officials to fully check heavy vehicles.
The Peshawar Customs collector said that due to improvement in systems like computerisation of official records, the revenue collection as customs duty had shown a remarkable increase of Rs 1.102 billion ($110 million) in June to December 2015.
This increase in revenue collection was a result of enhanced trade and after installation of the modern system, the trade would flourish even further.
“About 20 years ago, there was only one collector in the Customs department for the whole of Khyber Pakhtunkwa, FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan, but now there are around 1,000 officials in the province,” Qurban Ali said.
Recently the Customs Collectorate had also deputed Assistant Collector at Parachinar (Kurram Agency) from where around 600 trucks are crossing the border into Afghanistan on a daily basis. Similarly trucks are coming here loaded with goods including fresh fruit and other items, he continued.
“The project can prove to be a game changer for the business community of Pakistan in general and of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in particular,” opined Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KPCCI) President Zulfiqar Ali.
The KPCCI president said Pakistan was the largest trading partner of Afghanistan and in recent years the bilateral trade between the two neighboring countries had increased significantly, though it was still not up to the mark yet.
Zulfiqar Ali praised the development and said promotion of trade would bring prosperity for the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan.