WEB DESK: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has said that serious efforts have to be made to achieve $5 billion trade target till 2017 with Afghanistan, adding brotherly ties are beneficial for both Pakistan and Afghanistan Addressing the Pak-Afghan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) here on Monday, Dar emphasised for early finalisation of Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with Afghanistan. The meeting discussed projects relating to trade, energy, railways and roads.
The commission considered linking Chaman with Kandahar and Peshawar with Jalalabad through rail. The JEC also exchanged views to increase trade volume between the two countries. The finance minister stated that as part of our vision for a “peaceful and prosperous” neighbourhood, Pakistan places great emphasis on stable and co-operative ties with Afghanistan and believes that a peaceful, prosperous and progressive Afghanistan is in our best interest.
Brotherly ties are beneficial for both Pakistan and Afghanistan and would serve to enhance peace and security between the two countries. The minister stated that he would also like to draw the attention towards some of the tariff and non-tariff issues regarding bilateral as well as Transit Trade between the two countries. “We request that the process of activation of Joint Business Council from Afghan side may be expedited and its meeting be held as soon as possible. This will boost confidence of the Pak-Afghan investors in a big way.”
Dar said that major boost in bilateral trade is not possible if B2B contacts are not facilitated. For trade facilitation, we are hoping that Afghanistan would consider relaxing the visa issue regime which impedes visits of Pakistani businessmen. In this regard, he emphasised that the process of issuance of visa to the businessmen may be reciprocated. “We are very keen that our businessmen and your businessmen grow their businesses and sustain our relations,” added the minister.
Dar stated that he would also like to apprise the Afghan delegates about updates on some of the projects being funded by Committee on Reconstruction & Rehabilitation of Afghanistan (CRRA). FWO and consultant (NESPAK) have been mobilised at Torkham-Jalalabad additional carriageway site. The tentative completion date of the project is December, 2016.
With respect to 200 beds Jinnah Hospital at Kabul Rs 118.854 million has been released to the NLC to ensure early completion of the project. Similarly, the hostel building for 1000 students at Rehman Baba School is nearing completion and will hopefully be operationalised during the first half of next year.
The Ministry of National Health Services is co-ordinating with PIMS and Institute of Kidney Diseases Centre Peshawar to train 117 trainees for Nishtar Kidney Centre. In this regard, curricula and training material have also been finalised. Further modalities in this regard will be discussed by experts from both countries. “I will request the Afghan government to depute doctors/staff and also to provide electricity at the hospital so that its functioning starts at the earliest,” Dar said.
About Chaman to Spinboldak rail link project, he stated that he will emphasise on relevant authorities of both sides for professional cooperation so that the construction of Chaman to Spinboldak section by Pakistani side may synchronise with construction of Kandahar to Spinboldak section by the Afghan side.
Under the Scholarship Scheme for Afghan students, so far a total of 2,255 students, against the target of 3,000 have been admitted to MBBS, Engineering and other disciplines. Remaining students will be accommodated during fiscal year 2015-16. A batch of 295 students graduated in December 2014 while another 305 Afghan students will complete their studies by December 2015. We hope that these students will become ambassadors of goodwill. As a goodwill gesture, the government has settled the dues with PASSCO and the transporters for the supply of 50,000 tons of wheat.
Source: Business Recorder