KABUL - Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar said on Sunday that Islamabad attached utmost significance to its relations with Kabul, one of the most important neighbours of Pakistan.

Addressing the inaugural session of the 9th Pakistan - Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) here, Senator Dar called for enhancing bilateral trade, extending the trilateral transit trade agreement to Tajikistan for the economic betterment of the people of the region, early completion of ongoing projects funded by Pakistan, visa facilitation for Pakistani businessmen and labour and urgent finalisation of Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The session was co-chaired by Mohammad Ishaq Dar, Minister for Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatization and Dr Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, Afghan Minister for Finance.

He said Pakistan had been playing active role in the social and economic development of Afghanistan.

In this regard, he said the Government of Pakistan had undertaken a number of projects including the 400-bed Jinnah Hospital in Kabul, 200-bed Hospital in Logar, Liaquat Ali Khan Engineering University, Balkh, Rehman Baba School and Hostel for 1500 children in Kabul, Nishtar Kidney Hospital in Jalalabad and the dual carriage way from Torkhum to Jalalabad.  Besides, he said the prime minister of Pakistan had increased the development fund from $385 million to $ 500 million as a gesture of goodwill to Afghanistan so as to complete the ongoing development projects in Afghanistan.   In order to encourage and improve bilateral trade and road connectivity, the Government of Pakistan had committed to construct Peshawar-Jalalabad Motorway as well as Peshawar-Jalalabad railway link which would tremendously benefit the traders of Pakistan, Afghanistan as well as the Central Asian States, the minister added.  

He said that these steps were a manifestation of importance being attached by Pakistan towards its brotherly country. The minister also highlighted the achievements made by the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, during the last eight months. 

He said the present government, under the wise leadership of Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, had developed a road map to overcome the security, economic and energy challenges being confronted by Pakistan.  He said Pakistan’s economy on average grew since 2008-09. He stated that Pakistan had fixed a GDP growth target of 4% to 5% during the next financial year taking it to 6% to 7% n the medium term.  He stated that Pakistan had embarked upon a major reform programme that was aimed at fiscal stabilization, mobilising domestic resources, phasing out subsides, restructuring the power sector and other public sector enterprises and strengthening the social safety nets. 

Granting of GSP Plus status to Pakistan by the European Union was the manifestation of the trust over the socio-economic policies of Pakistan, the minister added.  Afghan Finance Minister Dr Hazrat Omar Zakhailwal underscored the need for enhanced trade and economic relations for the mutual benefits of the two countries. He also appreciated Pakistan’s role and efforts in the reconstruction and rebuilding of Afghanistan particularly, the development of social infrastructure. After the opening remarks made by the respective ministers, the meeting approved the agenda of the 9th Joint Economic Commission (JEC). 

Thereafter, technical experts from both the sides discussed issues threadbare under respective committees. The 9th JEC Session will conclude on Monday (tomorrow) in Kabul. Later, the minister along with his Afghan counterpart visited Jalalabad and handed over Nangarhar Nishtar Kidney Hospital to Afghan Government constructed by Pakistan at a cost of about $7.5 million.  He also inaugurated the commencement of work on the 75 km dual carriageway from Torkhum to Jalalabad.