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1- UNEXPECTED DECLINE IN COTTON PRICES
2- KHARIF CROP YIELD UNDER THREAT
3- WATER MANAGEMENT
4- PAK-AFGHAN RELATIONS
5- AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY

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PAK-AFGHAN RELATIONS

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Trade between two countries expected to reach $1 billion in the current year

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From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
Islamabad

July 26 - Aug 01, 2004
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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 next month.

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 issues.

 

 

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.