Pakistan’s business with Afghanistan at risk
Pakistan’s economy stands in a vulnerable position, and the factors surrounding it further add more concern to its future. From one side, there is a dangerous variant of the Covid’19 called Delta, which has impacted the economy negatively with its consequences.
On the other end is the newly budding government of Afghanistan and its question mark on the future of business in Pakistan.
A business tycoon sheds light on the uncertainty surrounding the economy in Pakistan. The interview is shared with Dawn, in an article written by Afshan Subohi. He says, “We hope and pray for a better future, but for now the economic recovery in Pakistan appears more susceptible to downside risks.”
He further added that there is still doubt on the 4-5 percent GDP growth prediction for 2021-22 not becoming a reality. “We will be lucky if somehow we manage to hit the 2020-21 growth level of 3.9pc.”
Although plenty of businessmen do not believe the pandemic will further affect them, the subject of Afghanistan emerges with polarizing opinions.
Moreover, The top business groups centered in Punjab and Sindh might have their reservations but anticipate a more peaceful and cooperative government after stability is achieved in Afghanistan. The reason is due to the changed norm of the Taliban: as they are deemed to follow the civil structures of governance to gain international support from other countries. However, before stability is fully gained in Afghanistan, the violent storm before the calm still produces concern.
Ehsan Malik, CEO of the Pakistan Business Council, gives his view to Dawn about the conflicting situation in Afghanistan. “Improvement in security conditions in the last few years ranks foremost amongst the positive factors. It has also led to improvement in travel advisories by key trading and investment partners. Anything that threatens safety and security of people and goods is detrimental to both domestic and foreign trade and can be a setback to economic recovery.”
Malik also encourages governments to be cooperative and sustain growth with the business in Pakistan. The majority of the countries are aiming for a peaceful transition in their relationship with Afghanistan, as no one wants to face any fall.
But, this view is not reflective of everyone as many see it as a glimmer of hope for new opportunities and a way for all sides to groom a new relationship with new settlements and agreements. It’s also seen to be a new path to success and growth for Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The trade groups and business leaders in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan fear the possibility of establishing the Taliban again, as they have finally found the ground to their dominant control after America departed from the 20-year long hold over the country.
An informed observer from Peshawer expressed his concerns about the Taliban to Dawn, “Please don’t be deceived by the mannerism of Taliban leaders engaging at global conferences. Taliban’s status and file remain the same. Ask anyone remotely familiar with Afghan affairs and you will get to hear horror stories related to the past couple of months. Thus far, they are in remote, rural Afghanistan, but as soon as they enter the cities, the world would realize how crude, conservative, and trigger-happy they are. He also warned people to beware of history, and learn from it, rather than committing the same mistake and repeating the horrors.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have a long history together from their geographical connection and to historical ties. However, the trade and business between the country have shown a stark demise being less than half of what it used to be over a decade ago. In 2010-11, Pakistan exported $2.7 billion worth of stock to Afghanistan that dropped to $1.7 billion in the years 2020-21.
The future remains a mystery and an opportunity to develop a bond with Afganistan and see this as a chance to increase exports and trade. The other part of the equation leads Pakistan back to an unhealthy relationship, where there is a risk of economic loss, war, and loss of more lives. Although history is important to consider as well, it is still not the present reality. In the end, as Rashid Amjad states in his interview with Dawn, “It is up to the Afghan people to decide their future, and no external power can decide it for them. Pakistan seems to be clear on this as it shared the sufferings of Afghanistan over the past 42 years.”