ISLAMABAD: The business community has asked the government to start direct cargo flights of Pakistan International Airlines from Lahore to Tajikistan in order to save time and cost on the export of goods to Central Asian states.
A delegation of businesspersons met Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan last week where they highlighted the challenges being faced by exporters in the absence of direct cargo flights and road links with the Central Asian nations.
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They described the two issues as key hurdles in the way of promoting trade and enhancing exports to these potential markets.
A source in the Ministry of Commerce told The Express Tribune that the business community was of the firm view that they could ramp up annual trade from the current $500 million to $5 billion immediately if direct cargo flights were made available from Lahore to Central Asia.
They have already received orders for the export of commodities to the Central Asian states but transportation challenges have prevented them from meeting the orders.
At present, they dispatch their goods from Lahore to Central Asia via Dubai, which results in higher shipment costs and waste of time as well as dents the country’s competitive edge.
A direct cargo flight from Pakistan to Tajikistan will hardly take an hour compared to around 24 hours for the flight via Dubai and other destinations.
“Time and cost can be saved by beginning direct cargo flights to Central Asia, which will allow exporters of commodities to compete effectively in these markets,” a businessman remarked.
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According to the source, the commerce minister assured the business community that he would take up the issue with the relevant quarters. “This is a reasonable proposal and the commerce ministry will take all possible steps to help implement it,” he said.
The minister pressed the businessmen to take advantage of the incentives and facilities offered under the Strategic Trade Policy Framework 2015-18.
Many incentives in the framework have lapsed due to lack of interest on the part of business community, causing concern for the government.
In recent months, Afghanistan has created hurdles in the way of transit trade between Pakistan and Central Asian states as relations between Islamabad and Kabul are at a low ebb over militant attacks in both countries.
Now, Pakistan is thinking about opting for an alternative route via China, which is much longer than transit trade via Afghanistan, to reach the markets of Central Asia.
A number of Pakistani commodities have a high demand in Central Asian markets which include fruits, textiles, building material, home appliances, healthcare products, food items, sports goods and IT products and services.
Courtesy : Express Tribune