ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced on Thursday that Pakistan will give humanitarian assistance worth Rs5 billion to Afghanistan.
Speaking to the media after a day-long visit to Kabul, the minister said: “If they need medicines at hospitals […] or whatever else their priorities are, they will tell us and we will be ready to give them humanitarian assistance in-kind.”
Commenting on various other decisions made during the meeting, the minister said that Pakistan authorities would no longer require Afghans crossing the border to obtain a “gate pass” from the interior ministry.
He said that Pakistan will allow the duty-free import of fruits and vegetables from Afghanistan to facilitate bilateral trade and border crossings will remain open 24/7 for trade.
He also announced that Afghan businessmen will now be able to get a visa-on-arrival, adding that the embassy in Kabul had also been authorised to issue five-year visas to businessmen.
Qureshi also said that the Afghan leadership had assured the Pakistani delegation that it would not allow anyone to use its soil against Pakistan, including the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).
During the press conference, Qureshi said that the Afghan government recognised and were “thankful” for how Pakistan had helped them in times of difficulty and the way the country had housed refugees for decades.
“Right now there is a transition, there are challenges and to overcome that, Pakistan will play whatever role it needs to play,” he said.
The foreign minister said that the high-level delegation that accompanied him on the trip also included officials from different ministries and institutions.
“The point of taking [the delegation] was so that after the main discussion, they would break off into sub-groups and hammer out the details of different issues related to visas, trade and border movement.”
He said that to follow-up on the issues discussed during today’s meet, a Taliban delegation will visit Islamabad in the next few days.
Qureshi said that the Taliban leadership also assured their complete support on projects of interest, including the CASA-1000 project, the TAPI gas pipeline project and the Transnational Railway project.
Pak delegation’s engagements
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday met the interim prime minister of Afghanistan Mullah Hassan Akhund, and discussed issues of mutual interest.
He assured the Afghan interim prime minister that Pakistan was committed to extending humanitarian assistance to Afghan brothers.
The foreign minister said Pakistan wanted lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. He mentioned in this regard several steps by the government including visa facilities for Afghan citizens, especially traders, and the establishment of new border points to facilitate movement.
Qureshi said Pakistan, in collaboration with Afghanistan’s neighbours, was committed to playing a constructive role for peace and stability in the region.
Earlier, the deputy prime minister of Afghanistan’s interim government Maulvi Abdul Salam Hanafi welcomed the foreign minister and his delegation. Afghan Interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaki was also present.
Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood, Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan, senior military leadership, and other members of the Pakistani delegation were present in the meeting.
Deputy prime minister Maulvi Abdul Salam Hanafi hosted a banquet in honour of Foreign Minister Qureshi and his delegation at the Arg Palace. A large number of cabinet members of the interim government joined them.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi leading a high-level delegation arrived in Kabul on Thursday to meet the leadership of the interim government of Afghanistan. “During the one-day visit, he will hold talks with Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and meet other Afghan dignitaries as well,” the Foreign Office said.