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    Pakistan to resolve Afghan traders' problems

    KABUL (PAN): Pakistan promised on Sunday to sort out Afghan traders' problems on its soil and emphasised the imperative of strengthening strong economic links between the neighbouring countries.

    The promise was held out by visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani at a meeting with Afghan traders in Kabul, the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) said.

    "We are convinced bilateral interest and economic future of the two countries is interlinked," an ACCI statement quoted Gilani as saying.

    Afghan traders say Pakistan authorities refuse to clear their goods stranded at the Karachi port over the past four months, forcing the importers to pay thousands of US dollars in fine.

    The two sides also discussed the recently-concluded Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA). The Pakistani delegation pledged to solve problems the Afghan entrepreneurs are facing in the neighbouring country.

    Minister of Commerce and Industries Dr Anwarul Haq Ahadi acknowledged the Karachi port problem as a major concern, saying it was an administrative issue that had got nothing to do with APTTA.

    During the meeting, Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq Khan said commercial links between the two south Asian nations had been bolstered in recent years. Despite the international economic downturn, trade between the two countries increased to $600 million last year, Khan said.

    At a breakfast meeting with leaders of the Afghan corporate sector and business community, Gilani said the future of the two economies was closely intertwined. Pakistan and Afghanistan should work jointly to enhance regional connectivity and set up corridors to facilitate trade and energy transactions.

    Transnational gas and rail projects could transform the economic landscape of the region, hoped the prime minister, who suggested the creation of special economic zones and facilitating joint ventures and regional private sector partnerships.

    Afghans in Pakistan were engaged in successful business enterprises including arts, paintings, carpets, restaurants and transport, he said, adding Gilani said, promising the new transit trade deal would be fully implemented.

    Also on Sunday, Gilani interacted with the Afghan alumni of Pakistani universities and professional colleges. He believed the Afghans graduating from Pakistani institutions could make significant contributions to the promotion of bilateral relations.

    Greater Afghan-Pakistan economic cooperation, people-to-people contacts, capacity building and political interaction could yield enormous benefits for the peoples, he said.

    "Your experience and knowledge of both the countries can facilitate closer contacts between public and private sector organisations. Pakistan is desirous of stability and peace in Afghanistan," the prime minister explained.

    About 28,000 Afghans, educated in Pakistan over the past three decades, were serving their homeland in public and private sectors, Gilani pointed out, saying some 500,000 refugee children were attending schools in his country.

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