ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan on Monday termed Afghanistan a natural trade partner of Pakistan, adding that the latter was committed to supporting peace in Afghanistan to achieve his dream of an open trade border with the neighbouring country to fully capitalise the scope of bilateral ties.
Addressing here at the Pakistan-Afghanistan Trade and Investment Forum 2020, the prime minister said that the open trade border would help boost economic activity for their mutual prosperity as in Europe’s trade linkages among bordering states. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak, Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz, Commerce Minister of Afghanistan Nisar Ahmad Ghoriyani and Pakistan’s Commerce Advisor Abdul Razak Dawood were also present on the occasion.
The premier welcomed the Afghan delegation attending the forum and expressed confidence that the event would provide the stakeholders with an opportunity to explore ways towards improved trade ties.
Speaking about the extent of Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan’s peace process, the premier said, “After Afghanistan, Pakistan has suffered the most due to the conflict. What history has shown us is that foreign interference has never been successful in Afghanistan; the people need to make their own decisions; the people will decide who will be elected. Pakistan will work with the Afghanistan government and will keep the relationship strong.”
The parliamentarians, trade communities of the two sides, government functionaries and line ministries will discuss and deliberate on ways and means to open up new vistas of cooperation and boosting bilateral trade between Islamabad and Kabul during the seminar.
The premier said that he considered promoting trade as the “best option to restore prosperity in Afghanistan” that unfortunately suffered over 40 years of conflict and violence.
“No country other than Pakistan is making utmost efforts to restore peace in Afghanistan for the sake of its own future,” he said, adding that Commerce Advisor Abdul Razak Dawood would soon be working out areas having high trade prospects with Afghanistan.
He said historic relations of the region with Afghanistan dated back to Mughal rule and beyond, where the traders passed through the land, presently Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP) of Pakistan, till the Afghan jihad was initiated.
He also spoke about India’s role in the region, the PM said that the “Muslim-hating” country would try to wreck regional peace to take a shot at Pakistan through Afghanistan.
“We tried very hard to befriend them but at one point, I understood that there was no point as they were against us ideologically. So, there is a fear in Pakistan that India will use Afghanistan to destabilise the country,” he said.
“But we have decided that we will back the wishes of the people of Afghanistan because the future of this region lies in the relationship and cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he added.
Speaker of Afghanistan’s National Assembly Mir Rahman Rahmani highlighted the importance of parliamentary-level contacts between the two neighbouring countries to strengthen relations in diverse areas.
He said that a peaceful Afghanistan was in the interest of the region and mentioned the bonds of culture, language and region with Pakistan offering an opportunity for a broad-based collaboration.
He lauded Pakistan’s reconciliatory role in Afghanistan particularly its contribution towards concluding the Doha peace deal this February.
The Afghan Speaker said his delegation would actively participate in finding ways to promote trade ties with Pakistan during the two-day forum.
Earlier, National Assembly (NA) Speaker Asad Qaiser in his welcome address also reiterated that Pakistan would continue to play a positive role for the resumption of peace and stability in its neighbouring Afghanistan.
He mentioned that Pakistan in the last four months took several measures to facilitate Afghan transit trade, besides easing up visa regime to encourage people-to-people contacts of students, businessmen, investors and patients intending treatment in Pakistan.
He said deliberations between the Pakistani and Afghan experts at the forum would help identify the hurdles in way of bilateral trade and would lead to finding necessary solutions.
The first day of the forum includes group discussions on topics including reducing the cost of Pak-Afghan transit trade, opportunities in the manufacturing sector, including construction, textile, plastic and pharmaceutical, opportunities in agriculture, food, livestock and minerals; investment in banking, information technology and medical tourism.
Day two will include discussions on the role of parliament in promoting bilateral economic engagement and will conclude recommendations for the consumption of relevant departments of both the countries.
The seminar is unique and historic, keeping in view the government’s vibrant policies, aimed at promoting regional connectivity and creating an environment of shared development and prosperity.
Owing to the huge significance, the seminar has attracted huge interest from representatives from Afghanistan trade and investment community, intelligentsia, academia, investors and traders and other people from different walks of live to participate.