Pak-Afghan ties in recent years, particularly after the fall of Taliban and resurrection of democracy in Afghanistan, have witnessed the worst of times. Some of the current hallmarks of its relations have been the exchange of fire on its borders and the ultimate restriction of trade and goods exchange in the last few months.

Afghanistan, a landlocked country that shares a long porous border with Pakistan to the north, depends entirely on Pakistan for fuel and most of its food and medicinal supplies.

The politics of closure of border by Pakistan and choking of Afghans in the north for its trade and goods, however, has not had the beneficial results which Pakistan policymakers have been vying to achieve. Pakistan’s frequent closure of the border with Afghanistan, and its policy of providing access to Chinese goods and its access to the Central Asian market, doesn't go well together.

The policy, on the other side, is hurting its trade exports.“Pakistan is a slightly bigger loser as the decreasing trade and frequent closure of borders with Afghanistan have not merely hit its exports, but it has also lost the markets of Central Asia,” says the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce.

Although the blockade has had the greatest impact on Afghanistan, which is the second largest importer of Pakistani goods after the U.S., taking 90 percent of its consumer goods from Pakistan, Islamabad is ultimately losing out on its one of its most established export market of Kabul. It's trading fell by 27% in value to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, on the contrary, is looking for alternative options to decrease its export from Pakistan and is extending trade relations with Central Asian states, China and Iran to minimise its dependency on Pakistan. The economic weapon of blockade used by Pakistan is having a reverse effect on Afghanistan’s vulnerability and is widening the gap between the two states. The erratic and reactionary policy is blurring the bigger picture, which is peace through cooperation and more trade with our most important neighbour.

Afghanistan faced nearly two months of blockade from Pakistan on its main border crossing of Torkham and Pakistan continues to block its trade on another smaller crossing like Kharlachi in Kurram Agency.

"When so much is happening [terrorist attacks] here [in Pakistan], and there are indications that it has links there [Afghanistan], then you have to do such measures, so this was a temporary measure," said Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Adviser referring to the policy of Afghan border closing.

Despite continuous closure of the border, a bomb blast killed 14 people including infants in Kurram Agency this month and another ripped through a crowded market killing 23 people including children.

Is the economic strangulation of people living in the border area any good when it is failing to control terror? And is it an effective policy or, merely a gimmick to muddle up the debate on Pakistan’s counter-terror policy, which is intrinsically linked to Islamabad’s policy of ‘Good and Bad Taliban’?

Ironically, while Pakistan policymakers refuse to facilitate Afghan trade through its area, and are willing to sacrifice its export income citing Indian sponsored terror activities into Pakistan, the trade with India has gone as usual with minor interruption. Despite the Kargil War, Mumbai attacks and other numerous border skirmishes with India, trade has gone up between the two states since its revival in 1997 under Atal Vajpayee govt. Trade balance between the two countries is in favour of India. In 2015-2016, exports from Pakistan to India plunged to $400 million from $415m in 2014-2015. India’s exports to Pakistan surged 27pc to $1.8 billion over the same period.

Tensions between India and Pakistan soared since grenade-hurling militants raided India’s Uri army base in 2016, and only then Pakistan Punjab struggled with a price hike of tomatoes since the Indian Gujarati farmer refused to send it in the aftermath of the attack on Indian soldiers. Indian tomato and vegetables are economically viable for Pakistani consumers as it costs less to transport from Gujarat to Pakistan.

“There is a huge demand for vegetables just 30 kilometres away in Pakistan,” said Fruit and Vegetable Merchants Association Secretary Jaspal Singh Sethi, reported Times of India.

Indian cabinet has also recently approved selling surplus power to Pakistan Punjab after the green signal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It is encouraging that the wider good of Pakistan trade and that the consumer is kept into account by the policymakers while dealing with the eastern neighbour. However, the question needs to be asked over Pakistan and its politics of border closure with Afghanistan, which fails to stop the terror activities and only causes an economic blockade of people on both sides of the Durand Line. 

Trade is one of the important sources of revenue for the border area and the North of Pakistan, in the absence of any viable industry, and can become one of the major contributors to the reduction of poverty.

However, instead of boosting its marginalised regions and communities,  and "healing" the wounded, the policymakers are adding to the poverty and misery of the area and disengaging its self from its neighbour, whose peace is directly linked to the north-west region of Pakistan.