Transit trade deal to be extended to Central Asia
CHICAGO/WASHINGTON (PAN): In a major breakthrough, Afghanistan and Pakistan on Sunday agreed to extend their transit trade agreement to Central Asia, a move that will boost bilateral and regional trade.
The decision was taken during a meeting between President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistan counterpart Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Chicago. The modalities of extending the transit trade to Central Asia would be worked out by officials from the two sides, said Zardari's spokesman Farhatullah Babar.
Zardari also called for long-term regional economic engagement and stressed projects like the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, CASA-1000, Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (RoZs), rail and road connectivity could change the destiny of the region. He also called for concerted efforts to implement these projects.
The meeting lasted 45 minutes, with Babar saying Zardari informed Karzai of recent incidents, where Pakistani businessmen and professionals visiting Afghanistan were detained. He urged the Afghan leader to look into the issue.
Zardari said facilitating the visa regime for Pakistani businessmen and investors would attract investment to Afghanistan. He also underlined the need for dealing with the question of prisoners and called for the establishment of a Joint Commission.
Babar noted that Karzai had agreed in principle on creating the panel during his visit to Pakistan last year. “The operationalisation of the commission needs to be expedited on humanitarian grounds,” Zardari said, adding Pakistan would support every effort for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, including the Qatar process, as long as they were acceptable to Afghans.
Peace and stability in Afghanistan was a central concern of Pakistan, he said, reiterating that Pakistani territory shall not be used for any kind of attacks on any other country. Zardari said parliament had also recently reiterated this principle and declared that all foreign fighters shall be expelled.
Babar said the post-2008 period had been marked by frequent Af-Pak meetings at leadership level. Karzai visited Pakistan to participate in the Afghanistan-Iran-Pakistan trilateral summit in February 2012, during which he held bilateral talks with both Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani and Zardari.
Karzai also addressed the National Defence University and met a cross section of political leaders in Pakistan.
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