Cross LoC trade resumes | Pakistan Today

Cross LoC trade resumes

After remaining suspended for nearly four weeks, cross-Line of Control (LoC) trade between divided parts of Kashmir has been resumed following assurances from the state government about improved facilities for traders. Goods worth Rs46.1 million were exchanged from Uri-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakot trade centers.
President, Chamber of Cross LoC trade Jammu and Kashmir Pawan Anand said that traders resumed business only after the assurance of chief minister Omar Abdullah. “We have been promised to exempt exported items from the state VAT,” he added.
Pawan confirmed that 13 loaded trucks with items like: coconut, herbs, and embroidery were exported to other side of Kashmir. While, six loaded trucks were imported from that side carrying dry fruit, and embroidery items. “Goods worth Rs13.5 million were exchanged on Tuesday,” he mentioned. Custodian LoC Uri-Muzaffarabad trade center Nazir Ahmad Baba, also verified the resumption of trade. Giving details Baba said trade worth Rs32.6 million from both sides took place on the first day after many weeks of boycott. Baba said 24 loaded trucks worth Rs18.3 million were exported. “Coconut, embroidery items, red chilly, and herbs were exported to the other side,” he said. Whereas, 15 trucks worth Rs14.3 million carrying herbs and dry fruits were imported on the day trade was resumed.
Over 374 traders involved in Uri-Muzaffarabad and 164 from Poonch-Rawlakot had boycotted the trade. The cross LoC traders demanded exemption of traded import and export items from prescribed duty and taxation laws like VAT. At present 21 items authorised for trade across LoC are duty free under the state law but not under central law. According to President, Salamabad-Chakoti Traders Union, Asif Lone VAT should not be imposed on cross-LoC trade. Traders also put forth several other demands including an increase in the number of trading commodities.
Traders say that 16 items included in the list are out of demand. The traders union also demanded that the number of days specified for trade be increased from two to four, keeping in view the increased number of traders and trade activity. The union members said that traders were facing difficulties in communicating with their counterparts as there was no regular communication link in place.
They also demanded regular meetings between traders at the zero-line on LoC. The Cross-LoC traders also requested New Delhi and Islamabad to not impose ban on the agreed list of items. Asif Lone said that the government bans items without any prior warning. “Minimum of four weeks prior intimation should be provided to the concerned traders so that they can dispose of all their stocks,” he said.
At the peak of trade this year in April, nearly 200 vehicles crossed the LoC as goods worth Rs200 million were exchanged in two days. Cross-LoC trade is conducted every Tuesday and Wednesday on a barter basis, but was suspended in May after traders accused the state government of neglecting their demands. Among the major demands of the traders is exempting cross-LoC trade from the purview of Value Added Tax (VAT), as they claimed that trade between this side and AJK should be treated as intra-state business.
The other demands are expanding the list of items that can be traded, setting up of banking and communication facilities and construction of covered godowns at Salamabad. The joint statement issued by Indo-Pak Foreign Secretaries in Islamabad also mentioned revival of the working group on cross-LoC trade for looking into the possibility of increasing the number of trade days per week and providing banking and communication facilities to traders.

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