By: The Kabul Times
Pakistan’s new ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan has said that as part of efforts to boost bilateral trade, Afghanistan and Pakistan are pondering over decision to revise Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) 2010 and the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA).
The APTTA is a bilateral trade agreement signed in 2010 by Pakistan and Afghanistan that calls for greater facilitation in the movement of goods amongst the two countries.
In an interview published on a media website on Thursday, Mansoor Khan said that Pakistan is focusing on enhancing trade relations with Afghanistan.
“The bilateral trade which had crossed the $3 billion mark a few years ago has unfortunately seen a drop in the last three to four years due to multiple factors. However, effort is being made to enhance facilitation for businessmen from both sides to take advantage of complementarities,” he said.
The ambassador maintained that there are a number of business events in the pipeline between Pakistan and Afghanistan that will help increase trade activity.
He lamented that the transit trade in recent years has suffered from some impediments including the piling up of held-up containers during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, both the governments are now working together to overcome the issues.
He said, “The relevant departments have worked tirelessly in recent weeks to clear up a large number of these containers and the remaining issues are also being addressed with a view to normalize the transit of Afghan goods to and from Pakistani ports.”
Regarding visa facilitation arrangements at the Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul and Consulates in four cities in Afghanistan, Mansoor said the Government of Pakistan has instructed to improve and strengthen the visa process.
“Pakistan’s visa facilities in Afghanistan will undergo improvements and strengthening. The situation of air flights is also considerable,” he said.
“This is going to be a priority as Ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan to work with relevant institutions on both sides to ensure that this engagement and interaction becomes dynamic and productive for the people on both sides,” the envoy said.
He said that special attention is needed to facilitate avenues for movement of people. In this regard, some positive measures have already been taken by Pakistani authorities recently.
The ambassador said at the same time to further facilitate parole to people movement, the Federal Cabinet recently approved a liberal visa policy for Afghan citizens, adding this policy provides issuance of on-sari all medical visas at Torkham, long term multiple visas for business as well as family visits, students and quick visas for those traveling by air.
“This visa policy will bring enhanced facilitation for Afghan citizens in getting Pakistani visas as soon as the policy’s implementation starts,” Mansoor Khan said.
Opportunities in education
The envoy to Afghanistan said Pakistan has also decided to provide opportunities to Afghan students in the field of higher education. “A total of 1,000 students who have been selected for scholarships in different universities in Pakistan in medicine, Engineering, IT and such other fields have been provided visas,” he highlighted.
“The deep-rooted socio-economic contacts between Pakistan and Afghanistan rooted in common geography, history, culture, religion and values require the two countries to work together to smooth people to people interaction and engagement in a mutually beneficial manner,” the Pakistani ambassador said.
He also appreciated the role of lawmakers on both sides of the border, saying they are playing an important role to bridge gaps and enhance ties.
The Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement came into force on March 2, 1965, essentially as bilateral arrangement between the Government of Pakistan and Government of Afghanistan.
The APTTA negotiation started in 2008 and after seven rounds of negotiations by Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission, the final document was signed on July 28, 2010 but fully operationalized from June 12, 2011 after ratification by cabinets, intended to ease the flow of trade between two countries.
This new agreement permits the use of more ports and more carriers – including Afghan trucks – and increases the number of border crossing points. It also provides for Afghan exports to India using the land border between Pakistan and India. The pact also envisages the use of Afghan territory for trade between Pakistan and Central Asian countries.
The objectives of the APTTA centered on improving the movement of goods through two countries on a mutually advantageous basis.