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Afghan trucks show up at Wagah to lift first transfer of Indian wheat

LAHORE: A convoy of 41 Afghan trucks reached Wagah border on Monday to collect the first consignment of wheat from India at Attar.

New Delhi has committed 50,000 tonnes of wheat for Afghanistan because of food shortages there.

The unloading of wheat from Indian lorries and its loading onto Afghan trucks is expected to begin today (Tuesday).

“The 41 trucks, driven by Afghan drivers, were allowed to enter Pakistani territory at Torkham on Monday morning,” a Lahore-based senior Customs official told Dawn. “After visa clearance and other legal formalities, the trucks moved towards Lahore under tight security provided by the respective district police of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and Punjab. The convoy reached Wagah by evening,” the official said.

According to the official, though the convoy was supposed to consist of 60 vehicles, only 41 trucks were received at Torkham. “After their arrival at Wagah, the trucks were parked at the National Logistic Cell’s yard. Before this, they were checked thoroughly by customs and security officials. The drivers were also checked under the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) devised jointly by the respective authorities,” he explained.

Talking about the wheat collection process, the official said the trucks would be allowed by the customs, immigration and security officials to enter Indian territory at Attari, where they would be checked by Indian authorities loading the wheat.

He said the process of loading wheat, their clearance by Indian authorities, return/entry to Pakistan’s territory, etc may take several hours. “But all such procedures will be completed on Tuesday. The same day, the trucks will be allowed to leave for Afghanistan after customs and security clearance,” the official said, adding that transporting the entire load of wheat from India via Wagah/Attari and safely transporting it to Afghanistan would take at least a month.

India had earlier announced to give 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan on humanitarian grounds. Pakistan agreed to facilitate both Afghanistan and India through safe and duty-free transportation of the commodity.

The Indian government had agreed with an Afghanistan-based logistics company to send empty trucks via Torkham and Wagah. The Afghan authorities had earlier shared the details and identities of drivers (passports, identity cards, etc), the kind of trucks, their manufacturing company, capacity, registration number and other documents with the foreign ministry as well as respective authorities in India.

The Pakistan authorities had also sought from the Afghan authorities to ensure the installation of tracking devices in all trucks using the Pakistan territory. Under the SOPs, the drivers were also issued temporary authorisation certificates by the customs authorities (transit trade) at Torkham. Before arrival at Lahore, the authorities also emailed the barcode of these certificates to the customs authorities at Wagah.