ISLAMABAD - Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the Executive Committee of the Pakistan- Afghanistan Parliamentary Friendship Group (PFG, Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser yesterday said that efforts should be made to rationalise the visa regime between Pakistan and Afghanistan without compromising the important security considerations. The meeting was attended by Ministers of Defence and Maritime Affairs, Advisors & Special Assistants to the Prime Minister on Interior and Establishment, parliamentarians, Pakistan’s Special Envoy to Afghanistan and relevant Federal Secretaries. The meeting discussed issues concerning Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relationship. The primary focus of deliberations was on enhancing trade and commerce and liberalising visa regimes for Afghans. It was observed with concern that the bilateral trade has drastically come down to under US$1 billion from its one-time peak of US$5 billion. Ways and means were discussed to effectively address the involved factors. Liberalising visa regime was also discussed in detail. In the end, the Speaker established 8 task forces (on short and long term issues) on bilateral trade, transit trade, visa issues and refugees. These task forces were given 15 days to submit their reports on resolution of issues.

 It was decided that the Executive Committee would meet frequently and regularly to ensure effective follow up of its directives.

Pak-Afghan Parliamentary Friendship group was first established in the National Assembly of Pakistan on 24th March 2005. Since then, the group has remained active in terms of parliamentary interactions, cooperation on parliamentary businesses and maintenance of parliamentary oversight of the bilateral relations between the two countries.