The demand came in Afghan Finance Minister’s two days visit to Pakistan where he met top officials of the government and also attended the 8th session of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC). Talking to the media on Tuesday, the Afghan Minister for Finance Dr Hazrat Omer Zakhilwal said that some 700 containers containing foodstuff for Afghani people were stuck at Pak-Afghan boarders, adding that NATO forces has nothing to do with these containers as it does not contain their luggage, he added.
He said that Afghanistan is suffering badly with Pakistan decision to block the route of containers. He further said that transit trade between the two sides is also halted due to the blockage of route for NATO containers. However, Pakistani officials including Finance Minister and Commerce Minister said that decision in this regard would be taken in next few days. Talking to the media, the Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has said that Pakistan would make decision in next 7 to 10 days. Earlier, the Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Afghan delegation led by Finance Minister Dr Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal had discussed various dimensions of trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Dr Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal appreciated Pakistan governments’ efforts for promoting trade between two countries. He told the meeting that current 8th Session of Pak-Afghan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) proved to be very successful and it showed the government’s commitment and interest in promoting the bilateral relations between the two countries.
He also informed the meeting that Pakistan is the biggest trading partner for Afghanistan and Pakistan’s share of exports to Afghanistan is very high as compared to exports from Iran or other countries to Afghanistan.
The exports from Pakistan to Afghanistan stood at $2336.7m and imports from Afghanistan to Pakistan were $172 million in 2010-11. The meeting discussed at length the existing hurdles and irritants in bilateral trade between two countries. Several issues like stoppage of containers containing goods specifically for Afghan people in the wake of NATO’s container stoppage and other procedural hindrances in trade were discussed in detail.
While deliberating these issues, Senior Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim assured the delegation that we are fully committed to address the issues and all type of Afghanistan’s concerns will be resolved on priority basis. He informed the delegation that other stakeholders like defence division; finance division and foreign affairs division of government of Pakistan are also involved in this matter.
Therefore, the senior minister concluded that we will invite the Foreign, Defense and Finance Minister of Pakistan in a next meeting and we all will sit together to find some viable solution for the said concerns.
In another meeting with Afghan delegation, Federal Minister for Petroleum & Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain expressed Pakistan’s interest in export of petroleum products to Afghanistan and informed the Afghan delegation regarding intent of establishing Pakistan State Oil (PSO) offices in Afghanistan. The issue of smuggling of petroleum products across Afghanistan-Pakistan border was also discussed and it was agreed upon that effective monitoring and preventative regime should be put in place. Both sides agreed upon the importance of TAPI pipeline project and expressed mutual consent for meeting regional energy demands.
Dr Asim Hussain stated that the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources would play its part in facilitating resumption of supply of jet fuel that is required to meet indigenous commercial demands of Afghanistan.
Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal assured that Afghanistan would provide necessary support for TAPI pipeline project that would further strengthen the brotherly relations between the two countries.