Qureshi meets Afghan leadership; announces Rs 5b assistance; steps to ease trade, movement

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enewspaper.com.pk/ Qureshi meets Afghan leadership

ISLAMABAD, (APP): Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Thursday met with the leadership of Afghanistan’s interim government wherein he announced in-kind assistance of Rs 5 billion besides announcing multiple measures to ease border movement and trade.

The foreign minister, in his first visit to Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, met with interim Prime Minister Mulla Hassan Akhund, Deputy PM Abdullah Hanfi, and other cabinet members to discuss the issues relating to trade, visa, flights, and people’s movement.

After his day-long visit, the foreign minister told the media that he also interacted with his counterpart Amir Khan Muttaqi, Finance Minister Mullah Hidayatullah, Defence Minister Yaqub Mujahid, and other interim cabinet members.

Qureshi said during the meeting with Afghan leadership, the bilateral issues were discussed to facilitate the Afghan people and trade to avert any humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

He said following the Afghan side’s objection, the condition of gate pass had been withdrawn, visa on arrival introduced for medical and emergency cases, the requirement for COVID PCR test waived off and NADRA’s service charges of $8.18 also suspended till December 31 this year.

The foreign minister was accompanied by a high-level delegation including secretary commerce, senior security officials, Chairman PIA, FBR’s member customs, Foreign Secretary, and Pakistan’s Special Representative Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq.

The bilateral issues were discussed in the sub-working groups attended by the Pakistani officials and their Afghan counterparts.

The foreign minister told the newsmen that keeping in view trade the facilitation, Afghan businessmen would be given visas on arrival. Moreover, Pakistan’s Embassy in Kabul has also been empowered to issue a five-year multi-entry visa to businessmen to facilitate bilateral trade.

The foreign minister told the Afghan leadership that Pakistan had decided to allow duty-free import of Afghanistan’s fresh fruit and vegetables to support the economy and farmers.

Experts from both sides would also mull over to define the zero-rated duty items as well as others for tariff reduction.

Similarly, he said the Afghan side had also expressed willingness to consider the reduction of duty for Pakistani exports.

For the pedestrian crossing, the timing for border crossing had been enhanced from eight to 12 hours and round the clock for trade trucks. Moreover, at the entry points, special lanes would be formed for the trucks carrying perishable goods.

Qureshi said the Afghan government had made it categorically clear that they would not allow misuse of Afghan soil by TTP, BLA, and others against Pakistan.

He said as he could not hold pre-scheduled meetings with Hamid Karzai, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, and Gulbadin Hikmatyar; he interacted with them telephonically to loos on his discussion with the interim government.

He said the Afghan side was very appreciative of Pakistan for hosting millions of refugees for years. To a question about the return of Afghan refugees, the foreign minister said though Pakistan desired their dignified return, such a demand was ingenuine particularly amidst the frozen assets of Afghanistan and prevailing humanitarian situation, and upcoming winter conditions.

Qureshi said he reiterated Pakistan’s clear stance that the Pakistani nation stood by Afghan people in that difficult time and would play all out the role to tackle prevailing humanitarian and economic challenges.

He told the media that an Afghan delegation would also visit Pakistan for a follow-up meeting to resolve pending issues.

About the projects of regional connectivity, he said the Afghan side expressed their full support in this regard.

The foreign minister said he also apprised Taliban leadership of the expectations of the international community and suggested ways forward to earn their recognition.

About the announcement of Rs 5 billion in-kind assistance, he said Pakistan would donate pharmaceuticals or any other goods of Afghanistan’s choice.

He said the Afghan government was desirous to enhance trade ties with Pakistan.

To a question, he said the Taliban had concerns about the brain drain, though they had announced to practice no discrimination with the government officials even those serving with the previous regime.

Regarding a question of recognition by Pakistan, he said Pakistan’s solo step would be of no use rather it required a collective approach. On the very issue, Qureshi said he had spelled out the expectations of the international community like inclusivity, women’s rights, girls’ education, and reduction of space for terror outfits.

He said like Pakistan, China too had reservations about ETIM, Russia for Daesh, and Iran for attacks on Shiite mosques in Afghanistan which the Taliban government should understand for which he also suggested enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation.

To a question, he said Pakistan had received an invitation from India to attend a moot of national security advisors on Afghanistan, he said considering the bilateral ties following the Indian unilateral actions in IIOJK, the government would make a decision at a suitable time.

About the increased attacks by TTP, he said the Afghan side was ready to cooperate with Pakistan and hoped for positive development in near future.

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