The relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are
growing steadily in all fields. The recent visit of Afghan Foreign
Minister, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah has further commented the growing ties.
Only a few weeks back Pakistan's Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat
visited Kabul and had extensive discussion with his Afghan counterpart
on matters of security, drug trafficking and release of prisoners.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is planned to pay a visit to Islamabad
Addressing a joint press conference on conclusion of
Afghan Foreign Minister's 3 days visit to Islamabad and hectic
discussion on all issues of mutual interest, Pakistan Foreign Minister,
Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, said that trade between the two countries was
growing by leaps and bound and was expected to reach $1 billion in the
current year from the present $200 million. Both the Foreign Ministers
expressed their country's resolve to fight the menace of terrorism which
they said was posing a threat not just to the two states but also the
entire region. Appreciating Pakistan's efforts for rooting out foreign
militants from South Waziristan, Afghan Foreign Minister observed that
Pakistan was not fighting its enemies in Wana but also those of
Afghanistan. He also announced that Pakistani prisoners still held in
Afghanistan will be released soon and that Afghan Government desired to
improve her relation with Pakistan and will enhance trade and business
relations for the mutual benefits of the two countries. He specially
desired to have enhanced cooperation in the fields of transport,
communication, banking and information technology.
The two countries also reviewed their commitment to
curb drug trafficking and spare no efforts in eliminating opium
production. They have an agreed perception that terrorist outfits are
extracting money from narcotics sales to meet the financial requirement
of their nefarious activities.
Abdullah said relations between Afghanistan and
Pakistan, abandoned shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks in
America, had been "improving and expanding day by day". He
said that ties between two countries were constantly improving in
different fields. The Afghan Minister noted progress in trade and
commercial fields and appreciated Pakistan's support in the
reconstruction of Afghanistan. He said an MoU has been signed during the
recent visit of Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat to Kabul, to
increase cooperation against terrorism and other related security
Foreign Minister Kasuri said during the meeting the
two sides have agreed to institutionalize their relations to boost
mutual cooperation. Under the new arrangements the two foreign ministers
and the foreign secretaries would be meeting twice a year to discuss
issues coming up from time to time. The Afghan Foreign Minister, while
responding to a question assured that Pakistanis detained in Afghan
prisoners would be released soon. He said a large number of such people
have already been released. The decision in this regard has already been
taken and now the modalities and procedures are being worked out,
Abdullah said and added, the result of these efforts would come soon.
Foreign Minister Kasuri said Pakistan attached high importance to the
issue which was raised at every level with the Afghan leadership.
However, he said, the delay was not because of Afghanistan but the
United States as they needed their screening. Now the US has no
objection to it, and the modalities are being looked into, he added.
Replying to a question, the two ministers said an
agreement has been reached on facilitating the Afghan refugees living in
Pakistan to participate in the presidential election slated for October
9. They (Afghan refugees) will be voting for the presidential elections,
Abdullah said and added that the two countries were now discussing how
they could vote in the parliamentary elections to be held in April next
year. Millions of Afghan refugees have returned but millions still
remain outside the country and it is their democratic right to be part
of the democratic process, he added. He said those elements who were
against the democratic process had left no choice for the government but
to go after them.
Earlier, talking to the visiting Afghan Minister Dr.
Abdullah Abdullah, who called on him along with a delegation, Finance
Minister Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan and Afghanistan enjoy close
relations in every field of life and called for enhanced economic
cooperation between the two countries. They are also facing similar
challenges. A combination of the promotion of the concept of enlightened
moderation coupled with integrated economic development offers solution
to a number of challenges faced by the two countries, he said. The
finance minister said a strong and vibrant Afghanistan is good for
Pakistan and vice versa. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran need to play the
role of catalyst to enhance trade and cooperation in the region, he said
adding that economic development, investment in social development
sector particularly health and education sectors will reduce sense of
deprivation and augured well for the region. He expressed satisfaction
that cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan on the economic side
is ahead of cooperation in other fields. He cited as examples the
resumption of air flights, functioning of Pakistani banks in
Afghanistan, contribution of Pakistani laborers and contractors in
reconstructions of Afghanistan, construction of highways between the two
countries and enhanced trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Dr. Abdullah agreed with the finance minister that
the two countries should compliment each other on overall development.
The Afghan foreign minister also sought the Pakistan's finance
minister's views on enhancing foreign investment in Afghanistan. Shaukat
Aziz have a number of suggestions to improve the investment climate in
the war-torn country. He also said that trade between the two countries
could reach $ 1 billion this year.
Later briefing the Afghan foreign minister about
steps planned by Pakistan Government to expedite trade between the two
counties and Central Asia, Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan will install
scanning machines at Chaman and Torkham borders and railway lines will
be built from Chaman to Spin Boldak. He also mentioned the completion
schedule of Gwadar Port.