Gilgit – The border trade with China through Khunjerab Pass on Monday resumed after three months strike observed by traders against the newly introduced Web-Based One Customs (WeBOC) system at Sost Dry Port
The decision to end the strike took place during a meeting held in Gilgit under the supervision of army. Traders had blocked in the strategic Karakoram Highway (KKH) which is a part of multibillion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
“The meeting was attended by army, trader representatives, customs official besides local administration officials,” said legislative assembly member Javed Hussain who was part of the meeting. “The new system will stand suspended till court decision,” he added.
The traders’ protest had made situation further complicated for the regional government facing massive opposition following introduction of the new governance order 2018. The government already bereft of support in the center further received a setback when the region’s supreme appellate court suspended governance order last week.
“We are thankful for the army for its role in settling the long standing issue,” said Chamber of Commerce president Johar Raki. Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other trade organisations also supported the strike by exporters and importers against the goods clearance system launched from April this year.
Previously, trader representatives and G-B government officials and FBR held talks to settle the issue but failed as both the sides were reluctant to soften their stances. Consequently, dozens of containers carrying goods from and to China got stranded at the Sost Dry Port, weighing heavily on meagre resources of the businessmen associated with trade.
“Border business through Khunjerab Pass is different from the rest of country as we lack proper internet service and training to learn the WeBOC system,” said Raki recently. The FBR believed that trade would be much easier after WeBoc as it would align Sost dry port with all the modern infrastructure in dry ports across the country.
“Most of the traders working for years at this port are uneducated,” said trader associated with the border trade, adding the new customs clearance system could ultimately render thousands of people jobless in the region.