Swat valley getting closer to China’s Xinjiang region

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ISLAMABAD, Dec.12 (DNA): The people of Swat valley and China’s region Xinjiang getting closer to each other, through their growing business contacts, says a report published by China Economic Net (CEN).

According to the report, the two sides enjoy centuries-old cultural and business ties. If someone looking for a variety of Chinese goods in northwestern Pakistan, the Mingora bazaar in the Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is the right place.

From clothing, footwear, baby toys, watches, cellphones, and their parts to electrical equipment, Mingora’s markets are flooded with quality Chinese goods.

Shaukat Sharar, Swat-based architect and historian told CEN that the people of Swat have been traditionally traveling through GB to Xinjiang to bring goods.

According to him, some people from both the regions had also entered into marital relations and “there is still some Pashtun population in Xinjiang”.

Currently, Mingora Bazaar is home to a number of markets and shops selling Chinese products. Popular markets dealing in Chinese goods in Mingora city, include Swat China Market, Pak-China Market, Mehmood Khan China Market, Shanghai Cloth Market, and Abaseen Plaza, etc.

There are hundreds of shops and street vendors in Mingora city selling Chinese products. The majority of the shopkeepers use the suffix or affix of the word “China” while naming their businesses, e.g. “Pak-China Cloth Centre”, “Insaf-China General Store”, “China Traders”, “China Toys Center”, and “China Hosiery Store”.

Riaz Ahmed is a trader in Mingora city who runs his business over Kanju Road and sells umbrellas. He started his business in 1992 and to become a successful trader, he learned the basics of the Chinese language as well.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, he has not visited China since early 2020. “Earlier, groups of traders from Swat would regularly visit China to buy goods but now we place orders over the phone and receive goods via cargo service,” he told CEN, adding that due to coronavirus, business activities have reduced by almost 40%.

According to Riaz Ahmad, the majority of traders from Swat import goods from Kashgar (Xinjiang), Hangzhou, Yiwu (Zhejiang), and Guangzhou cities. Until 2002-03, the traders of Swat would use only land routes to import Chinese goods.

Muhammad Ali, age 68, is one of those shopkeepers who started visiting China by land route in 1989-90. First, a hi-ace (van) would take them to Gilgit from Swat; from Gilgit, they would travel to Sost in small vehicles followed by their journey to Khunjerab Pass (border crossing between China and Pakistan).

Adnan Ali, a senior official of the Swat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) told CEN that thousands of people in Swat valley earn their livelihood in trading Chinese goods. According to him, around 800 shops are selling Chinese products in Mingora city.

At least 3,000 people are directly involved in these businesses while thousands of others indirectly earn from the business of importing and selling Chinese products.

“Around 300 businessmen from Swat go directly to China for business purposes while many others place orders via phone and receive their products via cargo service,” he said.

Mingora city attracts customers from all around KP and from Punjab province as well. “Here we find a variety of products while prices are comparatively cheaper,” Shahida Bibi told CEN. She had come to Swat China Market from Lower Dir district.

Saleem Rehman traveled 108 kilometers from Mardan city in KP to buy baby toys for his shop from Mehmood Khan China Market in Mingora.

The business community of Mingora demands the Government of Pakistan to start direct flights from Kabal Airport Swat to China to reduce travel expenses and time, the report added.