- Foreign minister meets Taliban leadership, says Pakistan is committed to helping the Afghan people in this moment of need
- Says number of projects including TAPI pipeline were also discussed
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Thursday that a number of projects related to regional connectivity, including the TAPI gas pipeline, were discussed with the Taliban leadership.
Qureshi's remarks came after he returned from Kabul where he, along with a high-level Pakistan delegation, met the interim government in Afghanistan.
Speaking to the media about his visit upon return to Islamabad, Qureshi said the Taliban have offered complete support on these projects.
"These projects are important for regional connectivity and integration," he said.
Qureshi said Pakistan has also decided to offer a visa-on-arrival to Afghan people who require medical assistance or some emergency support. He also announced that Pakistan has decided to waive off the Covid-19 PCR requirement for Afghan nationals.
The foreign minister said that Pakistan has started an online visa process to facilitate Afghans. “We have waived off the online fee that NADRA used to charge for the visa application process till December 31 for Afghan nationals,” he said.
He also announced that Afghan businessmen who want to come to Pakistan can get a visa on arrival for 30 days. “Our embassy in Kabul has been given authority to issue multiple entry visas for five years for Afghan businessmen,” he said.
“This will also facilitate our bilateral trade,” he added.
Talking about other decisions to facilitate trade, Qureshi said that the government of Pakistan has decided to allow duty-free import of Afghan fruits and vegetables.
He further said that experts from Pakistan and Afghanistan will sit together to explore other areas where "we could reduce tariffs to help Afghanistan increase its exports".
Qureshi also said that the Taliban leadership appears ready to talk about the tariff structure on Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan.
Sharing information about decisions made regarding improving border management, he said that the timing of pedestrian crossing at different border crossings has been increased from 8 to 12 hours.
However, he said that “for trade, the border will remain open 24 hours”.
“We have also decided that trucks that come from Afghanistan can directly reach Karachi without any unnecessary hurdles at the border.”
Talking about Pakistan’s security concerns in Afghanistan, Qureshi said that Taliban leadership has assured that Afghan soil will not be used against Pakistan.
“Be it Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or Balochistan Liberation Army, Taliban have assured that they will not allow Afghanistan soil to be used against Pakistan,” Qureshi said.
“It was a good trip. I told them that we have also interacted with our immediate neighbours to formulate a regional and coordinated approach to address Afghanistan’s looming humanitarian needs,” he said.
Qureshi had earlier stated that Pakistan is committed to helping the Afghan people in this moment of need, adding that he had a comprehensive and result-oriented conversation with the Taliban leadership.
Qureshi was on a day-long visit in Kabul to hold talks with the interim government. He was received by Afghanistan's Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Pakistan's Ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Ahmad Khan at the Kabul airport.
Speaking to the media in Kabul after meeting Afghan Deputy Prime Minister Abdus Salam Hanafi and other Taliban cabinet members, Qureshi said that Pakistan is committed to helping the Afghan people.
The foreign minister added that he had a comprehensive and result-oriented conversation with the Taliban leadership, saying that both sides discussed a number of issues, including steps to increase trade and regional connectivity.
"Hopefully, their [Taliban government] delegation will come to Islamabad in the next few days so that we can take these talks forwards and settle matters," he said.
Earlier, the Foreign Office (FO) in a statement said: "The Foreign Minister’s visit [to Afghanistan] reflects Pakistan’s consistent policy of supporting the brotherly Afghan people, deepening bilateral trade and economic relations, and facilitating closer people-to-people contacts,"
"The talks between the two sides will cover the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and focus on ways and means to deepen cooperation in diverse areas," the FO added.
"Utilising the opportunity, the foreign minister will share Pakistan’s perspective on issues of regional peace and stability."
The FO said that Pakistan, as a close fraternal neighbour, has always stood by Afghanistan and also kept the border crossing points open for trade and pedestrian crossing under Covid-19 protocols.
"Facilitative visa regime for Afghan nationals and border crossing procedures for trade and cargo have been instituted. In recent months, Pakistan has provided humanitarian aid and assistance in the form of food stuffs and medicines," FO added.
Last month, addressing the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on the Afghan issue attended by China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Qureshi said that the world is now grappling with a changed reality in Afghanistan, adding that the new situation requires discarding old lenses, developing new insights, and proceeding with a realistic and pragmatic approach.
"The new situation requires discarding old lenses, developing new insights, and proceeding with a realistic and pragmatic approach," Qureshi said. "At the centre of our endeavours must remain the well-being of the Afghan people, who have suffered enormously due to conflict and instability for over 40 years."