QUETTA -- The opening of a new trade terminal in Badini on the Pak-Afghan border in Balochistan is a key step to bolstering economic stability and eradicating terrorism in the region, say economists.
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal and senior military officials on September 16 inaugurated the Badini Trade Terminal.
"The Badini Trade Terminal in Balochistan is the second-most important gateway on the Pak-Afghan border after the friendship gate at Chaman," said Sanallah Khan, a Quetta-based businessman and real estate consultant. "This gateway will provide millions of jobs in the tribal areas on both sides of the border."
The Pak-Afghan border areas have been a hotbed of insurgency for decades. Anti-peace elements in these areas have been using money derived from smuggling and the sale of illegal drugs at the border to recruit members and spread terrorism in the region, he added.
"Economic stability will have a very positive impact on border security as well as the lives of the tribe members on both sides of the border," Khan said.
"Extremists and other anti-peace elements are utilising all resources to disturb peace in the region. They do not want friendly relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan," he said.
"The Badini Trade Terminal will help alleviate the economic woes of the local population," he added.
The local population sees the new terminal as crucial in improving the lives of those in the border area, said Hajji Bakhtiar Kakar, a tribal leader in Badini.
"The decision to open the Badini border terminal should have been made long ago because of its lasting effects on the peace process, as the tribes have always complained to the government that it pays no attention to their plight," he said.
"Until the concerns of the tribes along border areas are allayed, the enemy will continue to nurture misunderstandings for its own purposes," he added.
"The opening of this border gateway is very important for restoring trust between the peoples on both sides of the border," Kakar said.
The move has also made it easier for local traders to export to Central Asian countries via Afghanistan, he added.
"Previously, a lot of time was wasted in delivering goods to Afghanistan, but now the travel time from Balochistan to Kabul has been cut in half, which will surely benefit exporters," he said.
"The tribes have always done their part for peace and stability in the region, but some anti-peace elements in the last two decades have exploited the situation and created an insurgency that made their lives miserable," Kakar noted.
"It is the need of the hour to pay special attention to improving lives here so that militants do not take advantage," he said.
Bridging the gap
Lt. Gen. (ret.) Talat Masood, an Islamabad-based senior defense analyst, sees the new terminal as playing a strategic role in efforts to halt militancy.
"The Badini border crossing strategically is essential to the stability of this entire region; therefore, efforts on both sides are needed to build trust between the peoples of the two countries," he said.
"Militancy cannot be eradicated without the support of the local population," he added.
"Peace in Pakistan cannot be established unless there is lasting peace in Afghanistan. Harmony in these two countries could also have a very positive impact on the overall security of the region in the future."
"Militants in Afghanistan have deepened their roots over the past two decades among the Afghan people. To free the Afghan tribes from the grasp of militants, we have to give them incentives to create a free and economically stable atmosphere," Masood said.
Political hindrances and misunderstandings in Pak-Afghan relations have always stemmed from border disputes, he noted.
"I think there is an urgent need to open more gateways on this long, porous Pak-Afghan border as trade ties will inevitably bridge the gap between the peoples of the two countries," he said.
"Every aspect needs to be considered for the success of the Afghan peace process. Everyone knows that the distances between the two peoples can be bridged by paying attention to their financial difficulties."
The new terminal will help pave the way to more development in the area, which in turn will help thwart militancy, said Mitta Khan Kakar, a member of the Balochistan Assembly and adviser to the chief minister.
"In the past, no serious attention was paid at the government level to address the long-standing problems of ... the tribal areas, which led to increased unrest in these areas," he said.
New era of development
"The opening of the Badini gateway will usher in a new era of development in this region. Now the provincial government will allocate special funds for the development of infrastructure in these tribal areas," he said.
"The government wants to solve the long-standing problems of the tribes at its doorstep. The opening of the Badini border gateway is a continuation of ongoing development projects," said Kakar the lawmaker.
"Our priority is to address the frustrations of the population of our tribal areas that militants have constantly taken advantage of," he added. "If we had paid attention to their financial problems in the past, the situation here would not be so dire today."
"We are very delighted that Pakistan has finally opened the long-awaited Badini terminal. We hope that our people will greatly benefit from this initiative in terms of trade and other incentives," said Abdul Ali Khan, a senior member of the Balochistan Chamber of Commerce.
"Insurgency in border areas remains the main problem of tribes, and they have always suffered due to insecurity. The lack of development and inattention of the [federal] government to the tribes' key issues in the past caused uncertainty," he added.
"We are very optimistic that the opening of this gateway will not only improve the Afghan transit trade but will enable us to increase our imports and exports from Central Asian countries through Afghanistan," he said.