Small Traders In Balochistan Suffer Economic Losses Due To Border Fencing

With little to no help from the State, locals are suffering from severe financial losses due to the border tussles that have caused the border to be fenced. 

Small Traders In Balochistan Suffer Economic Losses Due To Border Fencing

His mother has been ill for the past 15 days. He wakes up in the morning, ties his yellowish long turban, and steps out of the house to go to the bazaar in the Chaman city of district Kila Abdullah, leaving behind his old bed-ridden mother, his wife, and his three children. 

Holding a walking cane, he moves towards his three-wheel vehicle.

“We have no groceries to prepare tonight’s meal. Children are being fed leftover cakes, because of which Arian got food poisoning”, his wife desperately said to him as he was leaving.

He is to walk through the streets of Kili Sulaiman, a small village at Pak/Afghan Border Point in Chaman, wait at the border gate, and get pairs of motor tyres to transport to Quetta. 

In total he makes PKR 1,200 a day. 

But these days he faces severe financial losses due to the border tussles that have caused the border to be fenced. 

Mubashir Khan, 34, is a polio-crippled resident of Chaman who grew up uneducated and got married in his teens.

These days he is worried for his family which has been living in harsh conditions ever since the border gates on Chaman Point were closed because of the recent eruptions between Pak/Afghan border police.

“The border fencing has caused economic crises and hunger. I would go to Quetta from Chaman with a couple of tires in my Suzuki CNG car, unload them in Satellite-town Quetta, and receive 1200 rupees for it,” said Mubashir.

Helmand Khan sits in the eastern area of Quetta (Satellite Town) hoping that the border trade will restart. He receives tyres from people who transit them from the Chaman border and then manages them in the markets of Multan and Lahore. 

“It has been 25 days, but I haven’t received a single pair of tyres. I have 12 family members and I am the sole breadwinner of my house. Through the tyre business, I earn 3500 per day, but these days the business is closed. The savings I had are going to end soon and I now have no means to provide for my family. God knows when this misery will end”, he added.

The border fencing has equally affected the business sector, marketing, and bilateral transition widely between the two countries.

Badr-U-din Kakar, President of Chamber of Commerce and Small Industries explained how badly trade had suffered impact. "Earlier it was Covid-19 and then the recent flash floods and now the border tussles have left harsh effects. It has disorganised world marketing, industrial production, and small regional businesses. Borders are closed, hundreds of goods loaded trucks and containers are stopped near the Zero Point at both sides of borders.”

Iranian Counsel General Muhammad Rafihi, is of the view that “Pakistan makes imports and exports on two borders of Balochistan with Iran (Taftan) and Afghanistan (Chaman). The finished goods produced in Pakistan’s industries are highly imported on the Afghan border whereas other commodities are transited on both of the borders, so as Pakistan imports are made on Iran borders”.

 While talking to The Friday Times regarding the legal trade on the Iranian border, Rafihi said that “Iran is thoroughly committed to exporting its finished goods and other eatable food items to Pakistan legally on its border based in Balochistan. But unfortunately, the recent flash floods in Balochistan washed away everything, destroying the entire structure including roads and infrastructure that disconnected Iran from Pakistan as the goods carrying heavy vehicles could not make it through the destroyed roads to reach out to markets in Quetta and other cities of Pakistan.”

“The trade on the Iran border provides earning opportunities to both populations across the border. Iran with the Pakistan authorities should enhance its capacity at providing safe trade opportunities to the small traders in Balochistan,” added Rafihi.

It could take Pakistan a long phase to rehabilitate its road structures and re-connect the traders to the markets after the recent floods have washed away everything and left nothing behind.

Haji Abdullah heads the Chamber of Commerce, Chaman, and is a strong supporter of trade on the Chaman border. He is of the view that the recent border closure has brought halts to the economic status of the population living across the border.

“There are around 8000 small traders who receive stuff on Chaman border like car spare parts, food items, embroideries and other things to transport it to Quetta and other metro cities of Pakistan,” said Abdullah

As per Abdullah, the closure of Chaman, one of Pakistan’s major border crossings with Afghanistan, is costing local businesses up to Rs150 million ($857,942) per day in losses due to the suspension of cross-border trade. 

“The Chaman border crossing is the second-largest commercial border point between the two countries and links the Balochistan province of Pakistan with Spin Boldak in the Afghan province of Kandahar. It is one of the most regular trade routes used for transportation of goods between the two countries,” added Abdullah.

Similar is the case with the Iran border, where mostly eatable food items are transported to the cities in Pakistan. The recent floods caused damage to the roads which got traders disconnected from the markets. On the other hand, the border fencing due to security issues brings economic crises for the small traders in Balochistan, explained Abdullah

Months back speaking to the press briefing, Mr. Mir Zia Langu interior minister of Balochistan said, “The government is instinct to make the safe environment at the border to protect the border trade, but due to the terrorists' movement on makes us compelled to give a call for border fencing. But we are still making efforts to provide a safe environment for the small traders to do their trading”.

General Manager maintenance NHA, Balochistan Mr. Noor-Ul-Hasan spoke on the role of the floods. “The recent floods have partially damaged the highways in Balochistan. Which got disconnected the supplies from the borders to the mainstream Pakistani markets. We have been rebuilding the damaged parts of routes to help reconnect the border trade with the markets,” he said. 

“The border trade is again continued with our support for rebuilding the damages on national highways from Iran border to Quetta city and we are yet to do more on this to fully fill the remaining parts of disconnected roads in Balochistan,” added Noor-Ul-Hasan. 

The political turmoil between Pakistan and Afghanistan creates economic crises for the traders across both borders which could only be settled when Kabul and Islamabad sit together and find suitable remedies for the problem.