Market Without Borders
Nowadays, the cross-border markets play a significant role for dwellers of both sides of the border,
although earlier many people were skeptical and, at times, suspicious towards the opening of cross-border
markets and to any trade connections with Afghans on the whole. A sort of invisible iron curtain, which
preserved from the Soviet period, and the disturbing years of 1990s at the border left their marks on
people’s mind. However, the relations between the neighbors on both sides of the border were improving
gradually, the markets were opened, and the skeptics had to confess that the improvement of good and
business relations with the neighbors is much better than to isolate oneself by a high fence, i.e. by closed
border in this context. The cross-border markets “Ishkashim”, “Tem” and “Ruzvai”, which are located at
border areas between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, are a good, illustrative example to prove this argument.
The entrepreneurs say that the volume of commodity that moves from Ishkashim cross-border market to
the markets in Khorog and other districts is increasing, particularly the sweets, foodstuffs, fruits and other
goods. The procedure of entry into the markets have been simplified and regulated, the traders and buyers
freely move to the markets via the bridges, where the border guards provide control.
How important are the cross-border markets? The following is the answers that were given by both the
Tajik and Afghan citizens.
Mrs. Nazarbegim Rahmatilloeva, a dweller from Ishkashim
district, Tajikistan, comes each Saturday with her goods to the
cross-border market. She trades with sweets and this is an
additional source of income for her. Mrs. Rahmatilloeva says the
market is important for both Tajiks and Afghans. Earlier, there
was some apprehension for having connections with Afghans,
since the border was closed for many years and Tajiks knew
nothing about Afghans, but the situation is different now, the
people of both sides have similar problems and they realize that
they are able to help each other.
Ghulam Nabi Baaz Mohammed, dweller of Takhar province,
Afghanistan, comes to the market almost every week and trades
with dishware. He makes money by trading in this market,
although at times the profit is too small. However, the crossborder markets are important, he says, because the population
of border areas can resolve many problems such as purchase of
necessary foodstuffs and other consumer goods. Afghans bring
more goods and at the same time they purchase from Tajiks the
fruits and tree-plants. The cross-border markets have facilitated
the closer relations between the Tajik and Afghan peoples. With
opening the markets some men have met their relatives and some
others found trade partners.
Obaidollah waladi Dingul, a dweller of Kabul, a trader of
fabrics and clothes, trades at the cross-border market since its
opening. He says the cross-border markets are important for
both Tajiks and Afghans, and in future their importance will be
increasing. In this regard, he expressed his wish that the
functioning of the cross-border markets never be suspended.
Mansour Mansourov, a dweller of Ishkashim district, Tajikistan,
a trader of national robes, said that lately he had frequently
come to the cross-border market to trade his goods. He received
a loan from a bank, and now he sells national robes, which have
a good demand among Afghans. Owing to the sale of robes, he is
able to repay the loan.
There are many young people who work at the markets. Owing
to the cross-border markets the youngsters start up their own
businesses. They come from various villages of Ishkashim district
or even from Khorog, purchase goods in cross-border market
and sell them in their villages. If there were no such market, they
would migrate abroad to earn a living. Earlier, the youth from
remote villages consider the migration as the only way to earn
money and survive, but now many people are carrying out
entrepreneurial activities owing to these cross-border markets.
And, indeed, the Regional Department of the Agency on Social Protection, Employment and Migration
confirms what the entrepreneurs say. As it was clarified, 3,239 residents of Ishkashim district are currently
in labor migration. In Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region on the whole the number of labor migrants
reaches 24,000. According to the Regional Department of the Agency, the growth of labor migration has
not been noticed in Ishkashim district over the last few years. The Regional Department’s specialists
believe that the main reason why the labor migration growth has stopped is that new opportunities
emerged for population of the district, and one of such opportunities is the entrepreneurship in the crossborder markets.
The officers in the Border Crossing Points, who ensure order in the
cross-border markets, also shared their own views on how
important the cross-border markets are for population on both
sides of the border, whether there are problems with admittance of
people into the markets, how these problems are resolved and how
the Tajik and Afghan border guards coordinate their actions on
the whole.
Abdul Haleq Mamad Alem, Commander of BCP on Afghan side says:
“The cross-border market have made the people from both sides much
closer to each other. Now there are no any problems with permission of
people to enter the market. The number of traders increases each year,
and the market helps people meet their needs. We resolve any problems
jointly with our Tajik colleagues, and we have established very good
cooperation. The market is important for people, and we try to
facilitate them. Moreover, we have a good experience, and the traders
themselves already know all rules and procedures, and that is why no
any serious problems have emerged so far. Together with our Tajik
colleagues we try to prevent the smuggling of forbidden goods, but
fortunately such cases are very rare. The opening of cross-border
markets became possible mainly due to the improved border protection.
Now, on both sides the border guards can provide joint control over
movement of people. I think this will further facilitate the growth of the
market.
A representative of the BCP on Tajik side noted that the relations are
really improving due to the established order on the border. He said,
earlier both Afghan and Tajik border guards had very limited
possibilities to ensure border protection. The border was practically
open, the smuggling was flourishing, the border outposts were just
surviving. Later, the conditions for staff improved, new border outposts
were built, the border crossing points were refurbished and brought to
their normal working conditions. When the order was re-established on
the border, it allowed these cross-border markets be opened. Initially
there was some apprehension that these markets could serve as a
convenient platform for smugglers, but this did not happen. Owing to
the joint efforts of the Tajik and Afghan border guards, the crossborder markets are serving not to individual persons, but to all
ordinary people.
On the basis of all the aforementioned, we can come to conclusion that the cross-border markets have
played a very positive role in making the people from both sides of the border closer to each other. These
markets enable people to buy and sell goods and, through this, improve their lives. At this stage of
development we can say with confidence that the approachment of the two peoples has adopted
diplomatic, economic and cultural character. The Afghan villages are connected to the power transmission
lines, which come from Tajikistan, many Tajik specialists are working in various provinces in
Afghanistan, popular Tajik singers give concerts in Afghan cities, there are agreements on transfer of
water from mountain rivulets to territory of Afghanistan for irrigation of lands, the law enforcement
agencies have established cooperation on border security, etc.
As they say in the East, “a good neighbor is closer than a relative”, and this proverb finds its reflection on
the example of the improving friendly relations between Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
А. Mardonov