ISLAMABAD - Trade between two parts of Kashmir across the line of control (LoC) has come to a halt for the last many weeks due to objections raised by Customs Department.

Talking to APP, President Cross-LoC Trade Union Sardar Kazeem said the government had allowed only a list of 21 items, mostly fresh products, to cross into Azad Kashmir from across the line of control but even then the trade was disrupted.

According to Sardar Kazeem, the trade from across the LoC was suspended for the last many weeks due to restrictions at Customs check posts. While Customs Department has its own viewpoint stating that Customs would not allow duty-free trade of Indian goods under the grab of intra-Kashmir trade through LoC as it would be detrimental for the country’s economy.

The traders say they were willing to pay tariff for goods that were brought into Pakistan through Kashmir.

The trade between two parts of Kashmir across the LoC was first started in 2008 and continued during PPP's government as part of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) agreed in 2004 between Pakistan and India.

According to Kazeem, the goods worth billions of rupees were traded between two parts of Kashmir in 2017 despite hurdles and interruptions. He said demand for different items continues to fluctuate in local markets due to seasonal fluctuation in production.

He said items like mango, kinnow and dates were traded to India through Kashmir after levying of a tax by Indian authorities but no such mechanism exists in Pakistan. “Our union will take up the matter with the new government in an effort to resolve the issue.” He said another issue was that an item once banned for trade was never allowed again. He said the traders wanted authorities to permanently resolve the issue like confiscation of trucks and goods by custom department on account of nonpayment of duty.

According to President AJK Chamber of Commerce Chaudhry Ghulam Murtaza, as there was no clear custom policy for cross-LoC trade, vehicles carrying goods face a lot of retribution once they enter Pakistan.