Islamabad - Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his Afghan counterpart Dr. Omar Zakhilwal here on Thursday agreed on concerted efforts for enhancing bilateral trade from the existing $2.5 billion to $5 billion in the next two to three years as envisaged by leadership of the two brotherly Islamic countries.

Finance Minister Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar received Dr Omar Zakhilwal here at the Finance Ministry on Thursday having detailed exchange of views on Pak-Afghan relations, specifically focusing on ways and means to enhance economic cooperation.  

Welcoming his Afghan counterpart, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar congratulated him on the peaceful transfer of power in Afghanistan.  He said, “Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is a seasoned technocrat and a wise politician to lead the country in its future quest for prosperity and development”. He also felicitated Zakhilwal on assumption of the office of Senior Economic Advisor to the President of Afghanistan.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that as part of his vision for a “Peaceful and Prosperous” neighbourhood, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif places great emphasis on strong, stable and cooperative ties with Afghanistan.  

Ishaq Dar emphasised on trade facilitation measures with a view to promote bilateral trade. While highlighting Pakistan’s economic engagement in Afghanistan, he made special mention of projects like 100 beds Naeb Aminullah Khan Hospital at Logar, hostel building for 100 students at Rehman Baba School and 200 beds Jinnah Hospital at Kabul. He said these projects would be completed soon as all related issues had been resolved through mutual discussion at the highest level. The Minister also briefed the Afghan Finance Minister on projects related to energy, road and rail links, emphasising frequent interaction between officials of both the countries for better results.

Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal said the new leadership of Afghanistan looked forward to forge economic cooperation with Pakistan. “We have enormous respect for Dar who has rebuilt Pakistan’s economy. The President of Afghanistan holds Finance Minister Dar in high esteem and considers him a great friend of Afghanistan”, Zakhilwal added.

Afghan Finance Minister endorsed Ishaq Dar’s views on promoting bilateral trade, adding that the Afghan President wished to see the volume of trade doubled in coming years.

 He mentioned that he had proposed the idea of Joint Pak-Afghan Business Council at a meeting with the LCCI the other day and would extend all out support to see this realised. This would sure help enhance trade and economic interaction, he said. The Minister also assured support on visa facilitation. Zakhilwal also appreciated Pakistan’s contribution regarding various projects in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Commerce, Engr. Khurram Dastgir Khan held a meeting with the Minister for Finance of Afghanistan Umer Zakhilwal in Islamabad and resolved to take measures to double mutual trade within next two years. Federal Minister for Textile Industry Abbas Khan Afridi, Afghan Deputy Commerce Minister Mozzamil Shinwari, Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Janan Musazai and Secretary Ministry of Commerce, Muhammad Arbab Shahzad were also present in the meeting.

Dastgir informed the visiting Afghan Minister that the present government of Pakistan holds Afghanistan as a pivotal key to its connectivity with the Central Asia and beyond.

He said that to facilitate and enhance trade with Afghanistan, Pakistan has already initiated a project to upgrade the border posts of Torkham and Chaman and equip them with all the latest technologies of communication and facilitation. The Minister informed the Afghan Finance Minster about the three pillars of the economic policy of the present Pakistani government which are trade, investment and connectivity.

The two sides agreed to hold talks to take measures for speedy and efficient transport of goods between and across the two countries, information sharing between the Customs of the two countries, enhance trade fairs, curb illicit trade, seven-day operations at the border posts and easy access of the transportation trucks of one country to the far off areas of the other country. They also agreed to make an efficient mechanism to check the progress of development on various issues by holding meetings regularly.

The Afghan Minister for Finance apprised the meeting of the lucrative incentives that the Afghan government offers to Pakistani investors. He said that the Special Economic Zones of Qundooz located near the border of Tajikistan and Faryab near the border of Turkmenistan provide countless opportunities to the prospective investors for a profitable business. These zones prove tax free environment, cheap and abundant supply of electricity and gas, connectivity with the neighbouring Central Asia through railway network and vast untapped Afghan markets.

The Afghan minister invited the Pakistani investors to invest in the virgin markets of Afghanistan and assured them of the complete support of the Afghan government.

The Afghan minister invited the Pakistan Minister for Commerce to visit Afghanistan with a delegation of investors and traders and explore the opportunities that Afghanistan offers.