Pak-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan traders strike over trade suspension with China

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pogb trade suspension
Press conference at Gilgit Press Club (Photo - News Intervention)

Traders in Pak-occupied-Gilgit-Baltistan (POGB) have initiated a strike, shutting down their businesses in protest against the suspension of trade with China since April. The POGB Importers and Exporters Association and GB Chamber of Commerce and Industries have issued a warning that they will block the Karakoram Highway at Sost if their demands are not met.

At a press conference held at the Gilgit Press Club on Monday, Muhammad Iqbal, president of the POGB Importers and Exporters Association, and Imran Ali, president of the GB Chamber of Commerce, addressed the issue. They said that trade between Pakistan and China through the Khunjerab Pass has been halted since April 1, following a brief reopening after a four-month closure.

The suspension of trade has severely impacted local employment, as residents depend on cross-border trade for their livelihood due to the lack of industries or private sector jobs in the area. Business leaders say that imported goods from China have been stuck at the Sost Dry port since April due to Customs clearance issues.

The traders also felt that the Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) policies are responsible for the trade suspension. They argue that income and sales taxes should not apply to imported items for POGB residents, as a border agreement between Pakistan and China exempts POGB residents from taxes on barter trade.

They are demanding a relaxation of these taxes and a 20% land route valuation concession on imported goods, similar to what traders in Quetta and other areas of Pakistan receive.

They said that in China, goods valued at 20,000 yuan are tax-exempt, and they are advocating for the same exemption in POGB. And an introduction of a tax exemption on goods worth up to 20,000 yuan, mirroring a policy in China.

The plight of POGB community is deep as the Pakistan Army of allowing Chinese control over the region to exploit its resources and marginalize the local community for its vested interests and benefits.

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