Speaker National Assembly, Asad Qaiser chairing the PAJCCI’s 8th focus group discussion in Islamabad.

Islamabad, 11 November 2021 (TDI): Speaker National Assembly, Asad Qaiser, complimented PAJCCI’s endeavors to strengthen economic links between the two brotherly countries while chairing the PAJCCI’s 8th Focus Group Discussion in Islamabad on 10th November.

He believes that reviving trade, economic integration, and people-to-people interaction with Afghanistan will contribute to both countries’ progress and development, as well as regional prosperity. He stated that he should be considered a PAJCCI member who will work together to boost the business community’s voice at all levels. He requested the names of PAJCCI members to be included to the Afghanistan Parliamentary group so that PAJCCI and Parliament can work together to achieve the same goal.

He also asked PAJCCI to present a draught proposal for resolving outstanding concerns as soon as possible so that an action report could be discussed with Pakistan’s Prime Minister.

“It is a great honour to have Honorable Asad Qaiser, Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan, on board, and I believe that it demonstrates the Government of Pakistan’s interest in assisting and resolving issues related to Pak-Afghan Bilateral and Transit Trade,” said PAJCCI President Jawed Bilwani. He also praised the support of government ministries that participated in thorough discussions with PAJCCI and helped to quickly resolve various issues raised during the contacts.

Chairman PAJCCI, Zubair Motiwala, gave an overview of PAJCCI initiatives, the current state of trade with Afghanistan, issues and difficulties faced by the business community on both sides, support of both governments since the change of Afghan regime, efforts of Pak Afghan Parliamentary Friendship Group, personal interest and efforts of Honorable Speaker National Assembly to establish and sustain government-to-government relations, and vision and support of H.E. Prime Minister of Pakistan. In discussing border issues, he stated that unjustified charges levied at crossings by dishonest law enforcement agencies are raising the cost of conducting business and eroding trust.

He encouraged the Afghan government to provide Pakistani businesses preferential status, similar to how Pakistan has repealed sales taxes on Afghanistan’s fresh fruit and vegetable exports. He added that if both governments promote PAJCCI, the trade volume will increase to $2 billion in a short period of time. He asked Afghanistan to ensure that Pakistan’s trade with the CIS countries and the transit of liquid gas to Pakistan are both safe.

Khan Jan Alokozai, Co-Chairman PAJCCI, who led the Afghan business delegation and was instrumental in opening the dialogue with the current Afghan government to address the issues confronting both sides’ business communities, thanked the forum and expressed special gratitude to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan, Pak-Afghan Parliamentary Friendship Group, and Member Customs for their presence and support extended to PAJCCI in resolving the issues.

He urged both governments to complete APTTA and PTA by involving PAJCCI as the group that represents all trade and transit sectors. Pakistan, he said, is the only neighbouring country that has stood by Afghanistan throughout this tough time. Pakistan not only kept its border with Afghanistan open, but also offered the most assistance in humanitarian concerns such as food and health care, as well as the elimination of sales taxes on fresh fruits and vegetables. He stressed that the new government recognises that a robust Afghan economy is the path to peace and success, and as a result, it is more attentive to the business community’s opinion and gives trade with Pakistan respect.

“Both countries face the same challenge: poverty,” Shandana Gulzar Khan, MNA and active member of the Pak Afghan Parliamentary group, said. Trade and a healthy economy are the only ways to address this.” She asked PAJCCI for help in bringing forth ideas and recommendations for removing trade and non-trade barriers between two countries, and she expressed her willingness to work with PAJCCI as a team toward a common goal. She stated that the government is considering opening up all of Baluchistan’s borders with Afghanistan, and that the Pakistan’s Government is prepared to carry India’s gift of wheat over the Wagha border, as our Afghan brothers are in desperate need.

Afghanistan has been added to the Business Visa list, and Afghan investors will be eligible for citizenship based on a percentage/amount of investment, similar to what other countries give, as well as the ability to open bank accounts in Pakistan. The APTTA will be prolonged for another six months till new agreements are negotiated; increasing border capacity is not an issue for Pakistan, but the Afghan side must reciprocate the same arrangements. The restriction on chicken export to Afghanistan has been abolished, and the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has been instructed to issue SIM cards to Afghan companies in Pakistan.

Junaid Makda, Director PAJCCI, discussed NLC’s charges and lack of facilitation, as well as the Ministry of Commerce’s and Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ lack of timely responses, undue detention and demurrage charges due to a lack of regulation on shipping companies, and the Department of Plant and Protection’s discriminatory attitude, and sought support from the Parliamentary group in facilitating the same. He did, however, urge Alokozai to advocate the Pakistani side of the matter to their new government for resolution in the interest of mutual economic success.

Faiza, PAJCCI’s Secretary General, presented the organization’s quarterly progress report on bringing genuine issues to light and facilitating solutions, coordination, and communication with government institutions, Parliamentary groups, and other forums. She told the House that PAJCCI has held 15 meetings so far and has played a key role in the development of government-to-government ties. She also notified the group about upcoming sessions to bring their complaints to the table for conversation and solutions at newly opened border crossings.

Participants applauded the Government of Pakistan’s announcement of establishing a special fund for Afghanistan, and expressed hope that if such meetings are treated seriously, the majority of the country’s problems will be solved.

PAJCCI (Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry) aims to promote peace and prosperity through bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan.