ISLAMABAD - Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser has said that eliminating trade barriers and facilitating traders would enhance the trade volume between Pakistan and Afghanistan which is in the best economic interest of the country.

He expressed these views while chairing the 2nd meeting of the Executive Committee of Pak-Afghan Friendship Group (Pak-Afghan Parliamentary PFG) in the Parliament House. He said that ease of doing business, especially in and around borders areas, would also increase employment opportunities for our people. He added that decreasing non-tariff barriers on both side of the border will enhance mutual trade; especially Pakistani exports would bounce back which were affected due to COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Speaker appreciated the performance and active role of the parliamentarians and concerned institutional stakeholders i.e federal government departments, provincial governments, traders and their associations for achieving targets determined by this Executive Committee especially facilitating the traders at Torkham Border, Ghulam Khan, Angoor Ada and finalising the draft policy on visa liberalisation scheme. He expressed that it was the right time to get the decisions implemented by the executive within timelines, as suggested by Pak-Afghan Parliamentary Friendship Group.

He directed the representative of State Bank of Pakistan, Pakistan Customs, National Logistic Cell and provincial governments of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa and Balochistan to implement the recommendations of the Executive Committee within timelines agreed by their departmental representatives.

It was brought into the notice that traders specially involved in Afghan transit trade had to face immense problems due to absence of a bank at Ghulaam Khan Border.

, unnecessary checking at checkpoints on their way to Chaman, weighing of containers at Torkham, irrational demurrage charges levied at Karachi Seaport besides increase in number of clearance of containers at all the borders points on daily basis.

The Speaker also constituted a task force for overseeing the terms of negotiation of Afghanistan- Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) expiring in year 2021. He said that input from parliamentarians and institutional stakeholders would be beneficial for a comprehensive future trade agreement.

Special Assistant to PM Muhammad Arbab Shehzad appreciated Speaker Asad Qaiser for his special initiative for trade liberalisation between both countries. He briefed the Executive Committee on the issues of Border and visa issues point by point.

He informed that clearance at Torkham border was backlogged due to COVID-19, and would be done within this month taking all stakeholders on board. He said that draft policy on visa facilitation has been prepared and would be presented in the next cabinet meeting. Shandana Gulzar, MNA briefed the Executive Committee on the issues of demurrages.

The Committee unanimously agreed to reduce the number of check posts especially between Chaman and Afghanistan and it was instructed to Chief Secretary Balochistan to facilitate the trucks of traders related to transit trade in terms of checking. The Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhr Imam apprised the Committee about the export of food commodities, livestock and value added products. He said that there was immense potential of trade between both the counties which needed to be tapped.

The Minister for Defence Pervaiz Khattak assured the Executive Committee about the facilitation on part of Ministry of Defence at the borders. He said that Pakistan and Afghanistan were neighbors and their destinies were tied up. He said that trade facilitation and concessions to either side would usher in economic prosperity not across the borders but the whole region.