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Pakistan, Afghanistan to hold key bilateral talks next week


Pakistani and Afghan officials will hold a wide range of talks early next week in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul to review cooperation in various fields including security and trade, officials said.

Both countries have agreed to hold the meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), a bilateral mechanism of dialogue, on Aug. 31 after a break of more than a year, an official told Daily Times.

The last meeting of APAPPS was held in Islamabad in June 2019. Tension in relations and the COVID-19 had delayed the physical meeting, the official, who wanted not to be identified by name, said.

The APAPPS framework, which comprises five working groups focused on politico-diplomatic, military-to-military coordination, intelligence cooperation, economy and refugee issues, is considered as the best forum to address each other’s concerns and to enhance cooperation in various fields.

The official said Pakistan and Afghanistan will also hold high level talks immediately after the APAPPS meeting to explore ways for increasing bilateral trade and removing hurdles in transit trade.

Both sides will also discuss amendments in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) that was signed in 1965 and revised in 2010.

Afghanistan had invited the Adviser to Prime Minister of Pakistan for Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood for a visit that is also expected early next month to discuss ways to boost bilateral trade and remove problems in the Afghan transit trade, the official said.

The Commerce Ministry had also sought suggestions from the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI) its recommendations on behalf of the private sector prior to the expected government’s delegation visit to Kabul, Zubair Motiwala, Chairman of the PAJCCI, says.

Afghanistan had proposed some amendments in APTTA and Afghan officials say Pakistan has not opposed those proposals that will facilitate Afghan businessmen and also Pakistani exports to Central Asian states via Afghanistan.

Sources said Pakistan is considering amendments proposed by Afghanistan in the APTTA.

Pakistan has recently reopened its all major border points with Afghanistan to facilitate transit and bilateral trade. Besides, Afghan traders have also been allowed to use Gwadar port in Balochistan province for import and exports under the APTTA.

Pakistan has also decided to ease congestion at Torkham border crossing, trade and transit traffic will be diverted to Kharlachi in Kurram district, Angor Adda in South Waziristan and Ghulam Khan border crossing in North Waziristan, Prime Minister’s special representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq has said.

Chaman crossing is also reopened on Friday.

A parliamentary delegation was scheduled to visit Karachi Port on Saturday to look into the businessmen complaints there as Afghan traders have long been complaining about delay in clearance of their containers at Karachi ports.

Meanwhile, sources said that Pakistan plans to announce a comprehensive visa mechanism for Afghans especially for traders, students and patients. A long-term and multiple visa will be issued to businessmen, students and patients.