Pakistan will reopen its border to Afghan imports today after a public health-induced closure of three months.
Recent complaints from the Afghan agricultural and business communities have largely centred on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA). Signed in 2010 with the assistance of US mediation, APTTA sought to enable landlocked Afghanistan easier access to Pakistani markets, increase imports from Pakistan and allow transit trade to India and Tajikistan. However, the inability to insulate trade from smugglers, drug cartels and insurgent groups has generated complaints in Pakistan that Afghan trade invites insecurity. Equally, Kabul has charged Islamabad with not honouring APTTA by limiting trade and reselling imports in Afghanistan at a mark-up.
As the Afghanistan-Pakistan border reopens to trade, agreements made in APTTA will come under greater scrutiny by both sides. Afghanistan requires Pakistan to fulfil its obligations under APTTA to sustain economic growth post-US withdrawal. As such, it is likely that Washington will pressure Islamabad to uphold APTTA.
It is unlikely that Pakistan will honour its commitments in the long term as APTTA supports greater Afghan transit trade with rival India. While it is highly unlikely the agreement will fall apart, given that Afghanistan needs trade with Pakistan, expect both sides to re-examine their commitments following the recent tensions. Afghan and US officials will likely focus on boosting Afghan agricultural exports, particularly fruit, to incentivise farmers to abandon opium cultivation.
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Bilal is the Director of Training and Development. He holds a master’s degree in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University where he extensively researched the US war in Afghanistan. Previously, Bilal has worked independently throughout mainland China as a teacher and as a domestic political communications fellow with Murmuration.