Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Founding Chair GSRRA, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization). (E-mail: [email protected]).
Afghanistan is situated on ancient trade routes connecting East Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, etc. Historically, Chinese traders passing through Afghanistan reach far-flung areas including Middle-east, Europe, and Africa, known as the ancient Silk Route. It was the hub of trade and economic activities. But, unfortunately, due to prolonged unrest since the 1980s, trade and economic activities were suspended which has impacted adversely on the whole region.
Afghanistan is a landlocked country, neighboring Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in Central Asia, which are rich in natural resources, and bordering China, the largest population in the world, and the second largest economy, while neighboring of Oil & Gas rich Iran, and the course bordering with Pakistan a pivot in the heart of Asia, is very important to the rest of world.
On 15 August 2021, after the withdrawal of all foreign troops, the Taliban established a legitimate government and restored the routine normal life in the country. Trade and economic activities were also restored as usual and Pakistan is assisting Afghanistan in its economic challenges through trade and humanitarian assistance.
Since its inception, Pakistan embodied the principle of establishing friendly relations with Muslim countries in the very foundations of her foreign policy. This friendly narrative became a guiding principle of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy formally enshrined in article 40 of the constitution of Pakistan.
Afghanistan is a brotherly neighbor of Pakistan. Thus, Pakistan will always remain committed to a peaceful, stable, prosperous, and connected Afghanistan which could act as a fulcrum for enhanced regional trade and connectivity.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have recently reached an agreement to facilitate bilateral trade, which includes a host of initiatives. In this context, the following steps taken to boost trade between two countries may be highlighted:-
Coal is already being imported via Chaman border and under the new agreement, coal imports will start at custom stations in Kharlachi and Ghulam Khan in KP.
Border crossing points will be made more efficient to ensure early clearance of trade and transit traffic and to address the bottlenecks and impediments on a priority basis.
Implementation of a Temporary Admission Document (TAD) allowing free movement of bilateral trade vehicles and preventing the loading and unloading of goods at the border crossing points.
Operational timings at all crossing points, particularly Torkham, Kharlachi, Ghulam Khan, and Chaman/Spin Boldak have been increased.
Pakistan’s cabinet has approved the Multi-Modal Air Road Corridor to further facilitate the transit of Afghan goods through Pakistan.
Pakistan allowed the trade of all products for a period of one year with Afghanistan in Rupee via land routes owing to the non-availability of tradable currency through banking channels which were long-standing demands of the business community.
Beginning of a luxury bus service between Peshawar and Jalalabad as well as Quetta and Kandahar by the end of August 2022.
To promote trade with Afghanistan, Pakistan has initiated a new visa regime which includes the following:
Issuance of six-month multiple-entry visas, extendable to one year, to Afghan transporters.
Assessing Afghan visa applications on the basis of current nationality and passport.
Establishment of committee to ensure continuity of ease of doing business for traders.
Allowing online visas to drivers, transporters, and helpers online visa.
Afghan workers and traders have been exempted from the Board of Investment recommendation letter and the SECP’s registration requirements.
Relaxation of visa provision for Afghan patients.
Pakistan is a net importer from Afghanistan but its exports to Afghanistan saw a drop due to the non-availability of tradable currency through banking channels since August 2021. On 5 July, the government authorized the trade of all rupee-denominated goods via land routes
To help Afghanistan revive its economy, Pakistan has advocated unfreezing of Afghan frozen reserves and that tools of economic sanctions should not be used against the Afghan population.
Pakistan had already undertaken a number of projects in Afghanistan and spent $1 billion on the development of road, health, and educational infrastructures.
Government of Pakistan has approved funding for running operations of Pakistan-built hospitals in Afghanistan & installation of equipment & payment of salaries for the staff of these hospitals as part of Pakistan’s humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan
Pak-Afghan trade is a potential source for the creation of livelihood for thousands of people and will help usher in an era of progress, development, and prosperity in both brotherly Muslim countries.
Pak-Afghan trade cooperation will not only strengthen economic conditions on both sides but also bring people closer from both sides and eliminate any future misunderstandings.
Pakistan being a responsible neighbor of Afghanistan is playing the part of its share and contributing toward Afghanistan’s stability and development through all possible means. Trade and economic cooperation is vital for regional stability, peace, and prosperity, and Pakistan has taken all possible initiatives to achieve these goals.
(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)