KABUL - The ninth session of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) concluded on Monday with vows to enhance bilateral economic cooperation to promote peace and stability in the two countries.
The co-chairpersons of the session, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his Afghani counterpart Dr Omar Zakhilwal signed the agreed minutes of the session.
Acknowledging progress made on the Central Asia-South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA) 1000 and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Gas Pipeline Project, the two countries keenly looked forward to the implementation of the projects.
Realising the importance of Kunar Hydro Power project, both the countries agreed to work together to further expand cooperation in the project.
The meeting also agreed that all issues raised by the Afghan side on the implementation of Afghan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA) would be considered by Pakistan and the results will be reviewed in the relevant customs experts’ meeting scheduled by the end of March. Pakistan side agreed to speed up the pace of work on various development projects being undertaken in Afghanistan through its financial assistance. The Afghan government, on its part, agreed to expedite provision of electricity to the projects.
Pakistan also shared a new draft for the Avoidance of Double Taxation treaty. Both sides agreed to further discuss issues relating to treaty at the earliest.
The Afghan side welcomed the extension of scholarship scheme for students from 2,000 scholarships to 3,000.
A number of proposals for possible cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the areas of petroleum and natural Resources, industries and production, and agriculture and livestock were also discussed during the meeting.
Addressing the concluding session, Afghan Foreign Minister Zakhilwal said: “I firmly believe that improved economic cooperation and interdependency between Afghanistan and Pakistan not only helps bringing prosperity to our two nations, but it can also promote mutual trust between the two countries.”
“Joint projects such as CASA can play an important role in bringing peace and stability into the region and beyond,” he added.
Pakistani Finance Minister Dar called for enhancing bilateral trade, extending the transit trade to Tajikistan, early completion of ongoing projects funded by Pakistan, visa facilitation for Pakistani businessmen and labour.
During his stay in Afghanistan, Ishaq Dar accompanied by Zakhilwal also called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
During the two-day JEC session, detailed meetings were held between experts of the two sides on a number of issues, especially focusing on trade, commerce and industry, cooperation in communication and connectivity, energy, agriculture and livestock and education.
The status of various development projects, being undertaken in Afghanistan with the financial assistance of Pakistan, was also reviewed in detail.
Despite financial constraints faced by Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif generously enhanced the overall size of portfolio of development projects in Afghanistan from $385 million to $500 million as a gesture of goodwill to the people of Afghanistan during his last visit to Kabul in November last year.
In addition to attending the JEC session in Kabul, both the ministers also visited major projects constructed by Pakistan under its bilateral assistance program including recommencement of works on Torkham-Jalalabad additional carriageway, Nishtar Kidney Centre in Jalalabad and the Liaqat Ali Khan Engineering Faculty of Balkh University in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Finance Minister Dar also visited the under construction Rehman Baba School and Hostel in Kabul, which would accommodate up to 1500 students. Minister of Border and Tribal Affairs Dr Akram Khpalwak welcomed the minister during the visit to the school.
Both the finance ministers also met the governors of Nangarhar and Mazar-i-Sharif and attended official luncheons hosted in their honour during visit to the two provincial capitals.