KABUL: Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to form a high-level committee to address border issues as National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf concluded a two-day visit to Kabul.
The development comes weeks after videos circulated on social media purportedly showing Taliban fighters uprooting a portion of the fence along the Pak-Afghan border.
During the visit, the NSA — who also heads the Afghanistan Inter-Ministerial Coordination Cell (AICC) — called on Afghanistan Acting Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi and Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi to “discuss the current situation in Afghanistan and strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries”, an official statement said.
“Both sides agreed to establish a national-level coordination mechanism for enhancing facilitation at border crossing points and to expedite ongoing negotiations to conclude a new trade agreement,” the statement said which was shared on Twitter by Pakistan’s ambassador in Kabul, Mansoor Khan.
The 2010 Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) expired on February 11, but both sides have not yet reached a new agreement.
The statement went on to say that the objective of the visit was to discuss with the Afghan leadership the humanitarian requirements of the country and “Pakistan’s proposals for deepening economic engagement to overcome the current challenges Afghanistan is facing”.
It added that Special Envoy for Afghanistan Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq and senior officials from relevant ministries were part of the delegation that accompanied the NSA.
Yusuf also held delegation-level meetings with Afghan ministers and senior officials dealing with humanitarian and economic issues.
“The visit yielded substantive outcomes in terms of forward movement on trade facilitation and social sector support […] both sides also agreed to initiate barter trade, modalities for which will be worked out immediately,” the statement said.
During the visit, Pakistan offered Afghanistan capacity-building and training support in multiple sectors including health, education, banking, customs, railways and aviation.
The statement said both sides also reiterated their commitment to the early completion of three major connectivity projects: the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000), the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline (TAPI), and Trans-Afghan Rail project.
“Afghanistan and Pakistan emphasised their commitment to ensuring peace and stability in both countries. Dr Yusuf thanked the interim Afghan government for their warm hospitality,” the statement concluded.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Khan said that the NSA and the Pakistani delegation also visited Jinnah Hospital in Kabul that was built by Pakistan.
“The delegation saw its facilities and current operations. The Jinnah Hospital director apprised [them] about challenges [being faced] due to the financial situation,” he said, adding that Pakistan reiterated its continued support to the hospital.
According to Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Yusuf and other members of his delegation would continue to hold meetings to strengthen humanitarian and economic engagement with Afghan authorities.
Afghan traders, who met with Pakistani officials, called their visit “effective.”
“I think Dr. Moeed Yousuf’s visit is very effective since it will help resolve several issues, including the problem of border congestion,” Naqeebullah Safi, the executive director of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI), told Arab News from Kabul over the phone. “The two sides have formed a technical committee comprising members from both countries which will hold regular meetings to solve the issue on the spot.”
He said that Pakistani officials agreed to waive off a previously necessary condition of using electronic import forms which helped them monitor the source and outflows of money along with goods that were imported without foreign exchange through Pakistan’s central bank.
Afghanistan has been facing severe financial problems since the Taliban takeover as international aid came to a sudden halt and the United States froze $9.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets held overseas.
Motiwala said the withdrawal of cash-on-counter facility, requirement of advance payments and the reluctance of banks to accept third-party payments in case of Afghanistan were not only contributing to border congestion but also lowering the trade quantum.