By Abdul Shakoor Khan
QUETTA, Jun 18 (APP): After years of turmoil and unrest, the Balochistan province is embarking on a journey to prosperity whether it is development of Gwadar port or establishment of markets adjacent to Iran border.
Inaugurated recently by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Iranian President Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, the Border Sustenance Markets Project raises hopes of prospering businesses and revenue generation among the local people as well as for the country.
Mand-Pishin market established in remote town of Balochistan, is one of the six planned under this project is an effort to open up new avenues for enhancing cross-border trade and facilitate local populace with business opportunities.
Spanning over 10 acres of land, this border market has a long history with Mand being “a hub for small-scale border business owners from across Balochistan and is being constructed at Pak-Iran border under an agreement signed by the two countries.
The economists have predicted much more economic activity in the area as they eulogized the government for a step forward to accomplish this project as it was stalled since both the countries had signed an MoU back in April 2021.
Its completion just within four months speaks volumes of the present government commitment to ameliorate the lot of people by providing the business opportunities to also people in Gabd, Mashkel, Washuk Chedgi and Taftan.
“It is a historic moment as Pakistan and Iran stand shoulder to shoulder for better employment of their people and their prosperity,” commented Balochistan Chief Minister Balochistan Abdul Quddus Bizenjo. “Both brotherly nations enjoy centuries old historical, cultural, religious, commercial and diplomatic relations.”
He noted there were immense opportunities to promote bilateral regional trade with Iran in crude oil, gas, food commodities and energy. “To formalize trade, it is necessary to be done through banking channels and its legalization would bring about a significant change in economic development of both the countries.”
Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan covering 43% of country’s total area having 800 kilometer border with Afghanistan in North-West and 600 Km long border with Iran in the West.
Balochistan, mostly reliant on production of mines and minerals besides agriculture and livestock known to be an important segment of rural economy, continues to rank at the bottom of human development index.
Fisheries, mining, manufacturing, trading, and other services provided by governmental and private sector organizations in the province are additional significant economic sectors.
“It is a welcoming step by the government,” said Abdullah Achakzai, President Chamber of Commerce and Industries Quetta (CCIQ). “Opening of border markets with Iranian border would multiply border trade between the two countries.”
He said business community in Balochistan enjoys pleasant relations with Iranian trade community and “border markets project was a long-awaited demand of traders, fulfilled by the government.”
Besides opening new avenues of trade, he hoped, the border markets would turn out to be central points for legal trade between the two business communities. “What we desire, is an early completion of this project to ensure legalized trade as well as providing opportunities to boost bilateral trade.”
He also underlined the need for paying special attention to fruits production potential of Balochistan province and introducing these valuable products to new world destinations for welfare of local producers as well as earning foreign exchange for national kitty.
“Resolution of barter trade and payments issue is also a positive development for business communities in both the countries,” he noted.
With initiation of this exercise the political leaders and economic experts foresee enhanced commercial activities paving way for sustainable development of the province.
“People of Balochistan are looking towards an era prospering trade with bordering Iran besides well being of Balochistan province and its people,” remarked Home and Tribal Affairs Minister Balochistan Ziaullah Lango.
Expressing pleasure over opening of border markets, he hoped, this step would also be good omen for border trade between the two countries.
Chief Collector Customs for Balochistan Muhammad Saleem also praised this decision and said it will facilitate businessmen on both sides to earn living through legitimate trade.
“In the newly built market, locals will be able to receive special discounts on 152 items including basic necessities like fruits and vegetables,” he said.
According to him the Customs Department Balochistan has deployed its staff for clearance of trade stuff to facilitate local community and traders.”We can predict that after trade through border markets, the volume of Pak-Iran trade will rise from $2billion to $5 billion.”
As there is dire need to promote Balochistan’s products in mine and minerals, agriculture, horticulture, fishing, cattle and tourism internationally, the information about the province’s potential sectors with tariff details and regulatory framework has been provided on Balochistan Investment Guide to help investors.
“The province of Balochistan is the land of business opportunities and foreign investors are invited to make joint ventures with us to explore this potential,” stressed Abdullah Achakzai, President CCIQ.
“The border markets should also help formalize border trade discouraging flow of smuggled Iranian goods to Pakistani markets,” he said. “Formalized trade would enhance tax collection and ensure that only quality products reach markets in Pakistani cities.”