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    Landmark trade pact inked with Pakistan

    KABUL (PAN): The much-awaited Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA), granting the landlocked country important trade concessions, was signed in Kabul on Thursday.

    The landmark agreement was signed by Pakistani Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who arrived in Kabul today, and his Afghan counterpart, Dr. Anwarul Haq Ahadi.

    US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, a number of foreign ambassadors, Afghan parliamentarians and senior officials attended the signing ceremony.

    Speaking on the occasion, Ahadi said the agreement was of great importance for both countries. It would enable traders from both sides to step up imports and exports, the minister added.

    Ahadi hailed the trade pact as a historic development that would boost bilateral relations between the neighbours.

    The signing marked a historic occasion for the two nations, said the Pakistani minister, who hoped the agreement would bring Kabul and Islamabad closer. Fahim said the two nations wanted to help each others.

    The ATTPA is intended to replace a 1965 transit trade agreement, which Afghanistan says does not reflect changes on the ground. Under that agreement, Afghans could export goods only via Pakistan's port city of Karachi.

    Stepped-up efforts by the Afghan government to renew the agreement led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding in Islamabad three months ago.  Fahim and Ahadi agreed Afghan and Pakistani cabinets would approve the pact.

    One of the bottlenecks to a consensus has been Pakistan's reluctance to allow Afghans to transport goods across the border to India.

    But Pakistan relented and allowed Afghan shipments to India via the Wagah border. In return, Pakistan will send exports to Central Asian countries through Afghanistan.