Gilgit (BR): As a last resort, traders of GB have closed the Pakistan-China border for any kind of exports and imports in a protest against unjustified taxes and unfriendly business approaches of central government. The Sost Dry Port, the only land route which links the two neighbouring countries for trade, has been closed for indefinite time as the protesters have announced the closure of business till their demands are met.
Javed Hussain, former president of Gilgit-Baltistan Chamber of Commerce said that over 100 containers had been stuck at the port as a result of the strike. “Both imports and exports have been stopped across the border. The trade activities at the dry port were resumed last month after winter closure,” he added. The traders, he claimed, had been forced to take the ultimate step as central government and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) were reluctant to reconsider its decision of a two days weekly closure of the border and taxation criteria made for the trade via Pak-China border.
According to him, despite repeated request and meetings held with Chairman FBR, the issue remained unresolved forcing the traders to shut their business. The decision of closing the border for two days a week (Saturday and Sunday) is the most surprising decision of Ministry of Finance as none of the ports in the country are being closed for two consecutive days.
Besides, the imposition of income and sales taxes on the trade handlings of that port was also illegal as the area under the constitution of the country was disputed, he claims. According to Javed, apart from the constitutional issue, FBR is also not accepting the demand of the traders for reconsidering the rate of taxes being imposed on the trade of this route. The exporters and importers of the land route mostly bear comparatively higher cost of freight not only because of the over 800 kilometres long hilly route but also due to the Atabad Lake in Hunza where the goods have to ship from one corner to other side through boats.
The miseries of traders not end here, he says, Customs Collectorates in others parts of the country also charge taxes and make unwanted checking and inspection of the trucks/containers coming from the Sost Dry Port. The demand of closing Customs Collectorate office in Gilgit has also not been accepted by the ministry so far. The unwanted and illegal measures taken by the ministry and FBR have finally made the trade handlings at the port unviable.
The trade activities, as announced by the office-bearers of GB Chamber of Commerce in Gilgit on Wednesday, would remain closed till a series of demands made by the traders were met by the ministry and FBR, he said adding traders would also be protesting in Islamabad shortly if the central government left the issues related to Pak-China trade unresolved