Khunjerab Pass

ISLAMABAD: After keeping the border remaining closed for over a year, Pakistan and China have agreed to reopen the Khunjerab Pass route for trade activities by April 1.

According to a source privy to developments in this regard, concerned authorities on both sides of the border have been ordered to ensure strict implementation of the SOPs and screening of all those who cross the border. “We have deputed health officers and staff at the Khunjerab border to implement health related to SOPs from March 31,” an official of the Gilgit Baltistan (GB) government confirmed.

Earlier this month, Islamabad had asked China to reopen the border to facilitate cross-border trade and people-to-people exchanges.

In a letter sent to the Embassy of China in Pakistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had stated that informed that the border was closed on December 1, 2019 as per schedule due to the winter season, while the scheduled opening of the border on April 1, 2020 was postponed due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

To support the lives and livelihood of the local population on both sides of the border, it is imperative that regular cross-border trade and P2P exchanges may be resumed. Therefore, the border may be opened from April 1, 2021,” the ministry stated. “The esteemed embassy is requested to take up the matter with relevant quarters to open the border on the said date for smooth and regular cross-border movement.”

China-Pakistan border remains closed from December 1 till March 31 every year due to severe weather conditions, as per the bilateral agreement. For the rest of the year, however, the border remains open for two-way movement of passengers as well as transportation of goods and cargo.

The border was opened for a few weeks in July last year to facilitate the release of stranded containers, and again in September, to shift medical material gifted by the Chinese government to GB to deal with Covid-19.

Two containers carrying medical equipment donated by the Xinjiang province to GB police department had arrived at the Khunjerab pass following its temporary reopening.