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    Pakistan, Afghanistan ink MoU on rail links

    KABUL (PAN): Afghanistan and Pakistan on Wednesday agreed to expand bilateral trade and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for laying a railways track between the two countries, officials said.

    The agreement came on the second day of an important meeting between the two sides on the proposed Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement in Pakistan's capital of Islamabad on Wednesday.

    The Pakistan side was led by Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh while the visiting delegation was led by his Afghan counterpart Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal.

    Addressing a joint press conference with Sheikh at the conclusion of the meeting, Zakhilwal said the rail tracks would link Baluchistan's capital of Quetta to southern Kandahar province and Peshawar to Jalalabad.

    The Afghan minister, calling the rail tracks a giant stride towards boosting bilateral trade, said the neighbours would be able to have greater access to the Central Asian market. He said work on the proposed project would start in the next four months.

    Pakistan's Minister of Railways Ghulam Ahmad Bilour told the press conference the costs of the rail project would be shared by the two countries. The long-awaited Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) would be finalised in a few months, he assured.

    During the sixth round of APTTA talks, Pakistan rejected an Afghan proposal to allow transit facility for the transportation of Indian goods to Afghanistan through the Wagha border.

    At meeting, a senior official of Pakistan's Commerce Ministry said his country would lose a $2 billion market by allowing the transportation of Indian goods to Afghanistan.

    The issue of smuggling remained the focus of discussions, with the Afghan team insisting the problem should be tackled from the APTTA.

    ma/mud