The decision of the Pakistan government to establish eighteen markets along Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran borders is a welcome one. The immediate benefits that Pakistan will accrue include a boost to its shrinking share in the bazaars of Afghanistan and Iran and a check on smuggling of goods. According to a 2018 report, Pakistan lost 50 percent of its trade with Kabul. Establishing markets along these borders can win us back the business that we gave to India, China and Iran.

Moreover, these trade facilities that the government is planning to establish will serve the purpose of tools for enhancing cooperation between the three neighbours. It is an open secret that enhanced trade activities between neighbouring countries result in improved people-to-people and state-level relations. The decision of establishing such facilities is the perfect example of the kind of regional cooperation all three countries need.

However, the government must be aware of the fact that the past haphazard policies regarding trade with Tehran and Kabul caused enormous damage to business as well as our traders. The authorities should bring more clarity to its trading policies. Especially in the case of Afghanistan, the government must instruct the officials to stop practising differential treatment. The state must ensure that the clearance process is easy and does not take much time. Besides, the high demurrage charges, along with the issues of transit guarantees, create further barriers in our trade with Afghanistan.

But regarding the latest measure that the government has taken is a step in the right direction. No one can deny this. It is in line with international trading practices. We are seeing that vibrant export-led economies are trading more and more with their immediate neighbours. Considering the sanctions on Iran and the fact that Afghanistan being a landlocked country is the natural extension of our domestic market, the trade facilities can earn significant revenue for Pakistan.