SEZs in Afghanistan


TALIBAN government said Sunday they are working to turn former foreign military bases in Afghanistan into Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to promote economic growth and development. The country’s Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs while chairing a meeting in Kabul directed the relevant officials to move ahead with this plan.

The US and NATO forces would definitely have left behind sophisticated and well-developed infrastructure at the military bases after their drawdown from the country and now utilizing them for the SEZs is a step in the right direction and send a positive message abroad. There are certain countries such as China which also want to invest in Afghanistan but the Afghan set-up will have to demonstrate its strong resolve to ensure peace in the country as only then it can attract investment in the SEZs as well as other sectors.  Afghanistan’s untapped wealth minerals including lithium and copper are estimated to be worth from one to three trillion dollars, and both these minerals are essential to modern industry.  Hence, the establishment of SEZs will also help the country to exploit its vast indigenous resources, promote exports and create job opportunities for its people.

Despite facing sanctions including freezing of its assets, it is good to see the Afghan government focused more on investment and trade with the regional countries which has enabled it to contain the downward economic slide. Last month, the World Bank also delivered a surprisingly upbeat assessment of the Afghan economy in the first nine months of fiscal 2022, citing high exports, a stable exchange rate and strong revenue collection. We, in Pakistan, should also come out of deep slumber and at least focus on the operationalization of the SEZs envisaged under the CPEC.

The Chinese companies time and again have expressed their interest to invest in these SEZs but we have failed to provide even basic amenities there. If we fail to operationalize the SEZs, the investment will go somewhere else.  It is really time to give preference to securing economic interests of the country rather than those of political interests.