Jan 19 - 25, 2004





Besides enhanced trade, Pakistan has assured Afghanistan of its full support and cooperation in the rehabilitation programme of the war torn country. Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali who met President Karzai in Kabul a day after the meeting of the Pak-Afghan Joint Economic Commission (PAJEC) assured him of Pakistan increased cooperation in their joint fight against terrorism, in the field of education, communication, health and providing training facilities to Afghan police and diplomats.

Earlier the Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz who headed Pakistan team and co-chaired the JEC meeting with his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani, in Kabul told a joint press conference that the two countries have resolved to increase their bilateral trade to $1 billion in 2004 as against $620 million in 2003. Pakistan has offered two new trading routes one each in NWFP and Balochistan besides the present two at Torkham and Chaman. Pakistan Railways is preparing a feasibility of Chaman-Kandahar Railway lines besides construction of Torkham-Jalalabad highway.

Announcing a donation of one hundred buses and two hundred trucks to be delivered immediately to Afghan government, Prime Minister Jamali said that Pakistan would set up medical facilities including a kidney center at Jalalabad and a Limb Centre at Khandhar to mitigate suffering of Afghan people. Large number of scholarship being offered to the Afghan students for studies in Pakistan in the field of medicine, engineering, I.T. and business administration and will be doubled next year. Pakistan, he said would not lag behind in helping Afghans in the field of education. He disclosed that a contract has already been awarded to a Pakistani firm for the construction of Torkham-Jalalabad road which will be completed before June 2005.

Speaking on the occasion Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that visit of Pakistan's PM was another step in strengthening the relations and economic prosperity of the two countries. Moreover, it is yet another manifestation of good neighbourly relations between the two brotherly neighbours. "We discussed the issues concerning both the countries including terrorism which is affecting both of us and we have resolve to fight out this menace jointly. This joint fight is far the future not only for our two countries but the entire region", he added.

The volume of bilateral trade between the two countries has picked up in recent months totaling $620 million during calendar year 2003. Cement and construction material from Pakistan since July 2003 has particularly given a boost to the trading volume. The Finance Minister hoped that level of bilateral trade would soon cross one billion dollars mark through official channels. The establishment of Pakistani banks' branches in Kabul is also expected to facilitate the trade. Two leading Pakistani banks, National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) and Habib Bank Limited (HBL), have got banking licences in Afghanistan. NBP has already set up a branch in Kabul.



Shaukat Aziz informed the JEC that Pakistan has already halved the negative list under the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement (ATTA), a 1965 treaty between the two countries. Pakistan has also allowed certain concessions to the transit cargo, such as extended storage facilities at Karachi Port Trust (KPT), and permission to trade through Port Qasim, along with Karachi Port. Shaukat said more facilitation of trade depends on the strengthening of customs and tariff procedures by the Afghan authorities.

"Pakistan is natural trading partner of Afghanistan," said Ashraf Ghani in the official statement. He observed there was enormous scope for trade between the two countries, and pushing the trade level to $1 billion level would not be very difficult. Ghani informed the JEC that Afghanistan has designed a new customs regime, which would soon be put in place, to facilitate trade and discourage smuggling. Pakistan has proposed Afghanistan to adopt a complementary tariff regime to eliminate smuggling. If implemented, the flow of transit trade through Pakistan would rapidly go up from the level of $ 300 million during January-December 2003.

Pakistan has also been in the process to construct Torkham-Jalalabad road that would facilitate trade through land route. The largest crossing from Pakistan is at Chaman to Afghan district of Spin Boldak in Kandahar province. In recent months, Afghanistan signed agreements with Iran and India to promote trade through Chabahar. Tehran offered special concessions to Kabul and New Delhi in this regard, including discounted port fee and warehousing charges. India also agreed to finance a road linking Chabahar to the Afghan border to overcome the difficulties of trading with Afghanistan through Bandar Abbas, which is 2,300 km away from the Afghan border point of Islam Qala, along the Heart province.

Pakistan has also initiated a feasibility study to look at the possibility of Chaman-Kandahar railway track, which is expected to complete by May 2004. "Pakistan and Afghanistan would soon explore funding for this rail route, both from bilateral and multilateral sources," the official statement said.