FEDERAL Cabinet at its meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday decided to relax the visa policy for promoting bilateral trade with Afghanistan and hoped the decision will help improve economies of the two countries.
Under the policy, the authorities concerned have been directed to issue six- month multiple entry visa to transporters from Afghanistan.
Pakistani embassies abroad have also been directed to assess Afghan visa applications on the basis of current nationality and passport instead of the country of origin.
These very decisions clearly reflect the government’s focus on promoting intra-regional trade.
Given our proximity with Afghanistan, promoting trade relations with it entails special significance and will accrue immense benefits for both the sides.
The trade volume between the two countries has unfortunately shrank from 2.
5 billion dollars to one billion dollars over the last few years mainly because of lack of business-friendly policies, absence of proper barter trade mechanisms and ineffective investment and joint venture policies.
We believe the latest decisions taken by the federal cabinet are steps in the right direction and these must be accompanied by more facilitation steps after consultations with the new Afghan set-up in order to exploit the true potential of trade and investment.
Recently, Pakistan has decided to import coal from Afghanistan in Pakistani rupees.
Similarly, both the sides can initiate barter trade under which essential items could be provided to Afghanistan in return of its commodities.
This will help us to maintain our dollar reserves and contribute to the much needed stability of the rupee.
Business Associations from both the sides should sit together to move forward on it.
We will rather suggest both sides to enter into a preferential trade agreement to remove all the existing hurdles in the way of their trade.
Efforts should also be undertaken by both sides to curb smuggling.Ordinary Afghans always prefer visiting and residing in Pakistan whenever there is difficult situation in their homeland.
However, the wealthy Afghans prefer going to the Gulf or other countries instead of Pakistan.
There is a need to woo them to invest in Pakistan.The previous government of PTI had decided to offer permanent residency to foreign investors especially to fetch heavy investment from different nationalities including wealthy Afghans.
The incumbent set-up must go ahead with this policy which will go a long way in attracting investment and aiding our ailing economy.