Abolition of 8 items from negative list of Afghan
Trade Agreement, increased PIA flights to six per week from two,
enhanced access through land routes, lowering freight charges and
holding Pak-Afghan Ministerial Meeting thrice annually were the
decisions made during Ministerial Conference last month, Shaukat Aziz
disclosed in a press briefing. He has accompanied by Khalid Said,
Additional Secretary Ministry of Commerce and Aziz Ahmed Khan, Spokesman
and Additional Secretary, Foreign Office. He described the talks a major
breakthrough in economic relationship of both the countries.
The eight items removed from the negative list of
Afghan Transit Trade Agreement include cotton yarn, polyester fibre,
ball bearing, timbers, tape recorder, glassware/dinner sets,
juicers/blenders and video cassette recorders (VCR)/video cassette
players (VCP). Imposing duty on the goods re-exported to Pakistan and
holding single country exhibition of Pakistani goods in Afghanistan to
promote trade between the two countries were also discussed during the
As per Afghan authorities estimated amount of $ 2
billion for its reconstruction for coming fiscal, Afghan government's
strategy has prioritised roads and telecom, education and health sectors
at the higher side of planning. They also believed mutual dependency
would override the issues like blaming Al Qaeda suspects in Pakistan.
For this purpose some sub-contracts have been given to Pakistani firms.
Pak-Afghan Ministerial Commission would be held
thrice annually. This session was a turning point as both the countries
are opening doors for increased economic relations. In mutual trade the
results are good. Most of the goods used there were from Pakistan, said
Shaukat Aziz. There are estimates that transit trade could grow at 50
per cent and overall trade 100 per cent.
Including eight items deletion, railway fare is being
cut by 22 per cent for Afghan imported goods while an extra rate was
being charged on goods to be transported to Afghanistan. Karachi Port
Trust and Port Qasim would provide more space for Afghani goods. The
process of clearance of goods from these ports is being improved.
Gwadar Port was also discussed as a key access point
for Afghan and Central Asian States. In this connection, ADB would hold
meeting for roads, storage capacity there. Afghan government evinced
keen interest in Gwadar Port as they were told that it would take only 6
hours to reach from Gwadar to Spinboldek/Chaman. It would be a real
opportunity for the Central Asian States as well.
Pakistan's $ 100 million assistance has been turned
into grant in which $ 18 million out of it has already been spent. For
next year $ 5 million commodity and $ 15 million project aid would be
given. Turkhem-Jalalabad link is being surveyed by Nespak Pakistan,
which would come under the project aid. Other fields of assistance are
education, health care driven assistance, technical assistance in
police, banking training, post office and micro-finance for Khushhali
Hamid Karzai has approved PIA's six flights a week
three from Islamabad and Peshawar to Kabul. In fact two flights are
operating from Pakistan weekly. Quetta-Kandahar flights would be
arranged after some time. Moreover, Afghan government has completed
banking licensing policy and National Bank of Pakistan is sending a
second team to finalize arrangements for trade finance and remittances
to Afghanistan. Afghan government has also instructed their Ambassador
to issue visas to Pakistan traders and a delegation from Serhad Chamber
of Commerce just arrived in Kabul.
The contract of Spinboldek to Kandahar Road has been
awarded to a Pakistan firm Echo West on the basis of open tender for $
25 million. This construction project would be financed by a consortium
led by Asian Development Bank.
Most of the reservations about the prospects of
increased Pak-Afghan trade and economic co-operation will appear to have
been removed, following next Pak-Afghan Ministerial Commission meeting.
The Kabul visit of the Pakistan delegation for the
ministerial meeting also provided an opportunity to Shaukat Aziz to
discuss further co-operation between the two countries with Afghan
President Hamid Karzai, on various issues related to reconstruction of
Afghanistan's devastated economy, in which Pakistan has been actively
It will be noted that the reluctance of Pakistan government to
abolish the entire negative list is largely owed to genuine fears of
smuggling back to Pakistan most of the items not much in demand in
Afghanistan. However, fears should be subside, thereby helping
progressive contraction of the negative list leading to its abolition.