Pakistan Shuts Down Khunjerab Pass for Winter
In a strategic move to ensure safety amid challenging winter conditions, Pakistan has officially closed the Khunjerab Pass, a crucial border crossing with China, for the next five months. This decision comes as a response to heavy snowfall and adverse weather conditions that typically make the pass impassable during this period.
Before the closure became official, over 40 containers successfully entered Pakistan through the Khunjerab Pass. The closure, effective until April 1, is a precautionary measure to mitigate the risks associated with traversing the pass under harsh weather conditions.
The annual closure of the Khunjerab Pass is executed in accordance with the Border Protocol Agreement between Pakistan and China. This agreement prioritizes the safety of transportation in the face of extreme winter weather. Notably, the pass is shut down every year at the end of November, marking the beginning of a seasonal closure period.
The official ceremony marking the closure was attended by dignitaries, including President of the Hunza Chamber, Daulat Karim, ex-member of the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly, Javed Hussain, and Chief Executive Officer of AJ International Cargo, Khurram Zafar. This underscores the significance of the Khunjerab Pass as a critical trade route.
While the Chinese government had previously announced the closure of the border from December to March, the formal agreement to keep the high-altitude road open throughout the year is yet to be signed. The closure of Khunjerab Pass in accordance with the routine annual schedule suggests that the two countries are adhering to the agreed-upon protocol until a formal agreement is finalized.
According to the Khunjerab Port management of China's Xinjiang region, an official notification from their State Port Management Office is awaited. Until such a notification is issued, "Khunjerab Port will continue to adopt the seasonal mode of customs clearance, with normal closure from December to March," as stated in a released statement.
The closure of the Khunjerab Pass has immediate implications for trade and transportation between Pakistan and China. With the pass being a crucial artery for goods and commodities, the temporary shutdown may lead to logistical challenges and delays. Businesses and industries relying on this route will need to adjust their schedules and operations accordingly.
As the Khunjerab Pass closes its gates for the winter, both Pakistan and China are navigating the challenges posed by nature in a strategic and collaborative manner. The adherence to established protocols and the annual closure ritual underscores the commitment to ensuring the safety and efficiency of cross-border transportation.
While the formal agreement for year-round accessibility remains pending, the seasonal closure serves as a testament to the proactive approach in managing the unpredictable winter conditions of the region. As we await further developments, it's evident that the closure of Khunjerab Pass is not just a routine event but a well-thought-out strategy to safeguard the interests of both nations.