BEIJING: The Khunjerab Pass, a major border trade route between Pakistan and China, would open for business on Monday (tomorrow) after a closure of almost three years in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Reopening of Khunjrab Pass is critical to accelerating trade between Pakistan and China,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tweeted on Sunday.
The pass that connects Gilgit-Baltistan with China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region was closed in the year 2020 to stem the spread of the contagion.
The Chinese authorities have shared a letter with Pakistani officials regarding the reopening of the pass for trade, official sources told the Associated Press of Pakistan. The port authorities on both sides of the border have been instructed to take all necessary measures regarding Covid-19 to ensure the containment of the disease.
It merits here to mention that as a result of cold weather and lack of oxygen in the high altitude, the Khunjerab Pass generally opens from April 1 to November 30 every year and remains closed from December 1 to March 31 of the following year.
But to ensure the smooth customs clearance of Pakistan’s urgently needed and other supplies, the port was temporarily opened twice early this year. It was opened for 12 days from January 30 to February 10 this year and earlier for two days from January 19 to January 20
The two temporary openings facilitated 128 cross-border personnel visits, 328 transportation vehicles passes, and more than 6,000 tons of goods exported, according to the foreign affairs office of Kashgar prefecture.
The Chinese embassy hailed the announcement as “good news” as it shared the development on Friday. “Look forward to having more goods and trade go across the border,” it tweeted.
Moreover, PM Shehbaz was of the view that the reopening of the trade route would increase bilateral trade between Pakistan and China as the country deals with the tottering economy.
In a statement, he welcomed the completion of arrangements for the resumption of the trade route. While the premier lamented the “undue delay” in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects during the PTI government, he said the speed of multi-billion dollar corridor projects would be doubled then it was in 2018. He vowed to beef up all CPEC-related projects.
“The govt is determined to unpack the full potential of CPEC by making it the centerpiece of our economic diplomacy for the region. Trade & connectivity are the building blocks of prosperity,” PM Shehbaz said.