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ISLAMABAD: The government has established a Special Cell as part of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) under Adviser Finance for out of the box solutions to support Afghanistan financially, well informed sources told Business Recorder.

Ministry of Commerce, sources said, had been directed to revisit Afghan export items for which tariff rationalisation could be undertaken, keeping in mind the need to remain as flexible as possible at this time of need for Afghanistan.

These decisions have been taken by the Apex Committee in its first meeting of the Afghan Inter-Ministerial Coordination Cell (AICC) on November 22, with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair.

The meeting decided that the already announced in-kind support of Rs5 billion to Afghanistan should be fast tracked.

It was decided that the following items should be included for assistance: (i) wheat, 50,000 MT, worth approximately Rs 2.5 billion; (ii) lifesaving drugs (list prepared by Ministry of Health), worth Rs 0.5 billon; and (iii) winter supplies and shelter through NDMA i.e. tents- 1,500, blankets-8,500, tarpaulin-14,000, rice, worth the remaining amount from Rs 5 billion.

Pakistan to send Rs5bn relief goods to Afghanistan

The Prime Minister will issue a directive to Ministry of Finance for the provision of these funds, following which the assistance will be executed by the relevant ministries/departments.

According to sources, it was decided that Ministry of Finance/Establishment Division will expedite processing of pending summaries of FIA and Customs for additional posts at the Western border. FIA’s immediate requirement is for 509 additional posts while Customs has requested 312 posts.

Pakistan will continue to facilitate international evacuations as a goodwill gesture. A time bound humanitarian safe passage through land and air route destined for third countries will be allowed on case-to-case basis in coordination with the recipient third countries, sources maintained.

PIA fares to Afghanistan are exorbitant in comparison to other airlines. CAA/PIA would deliberate on the issue and a proposal to resolve the issue will be presented by Chairman PIA in AICC.

Ministry of Communication, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan government will formulate an implementation plan for commencement of Bus Service between Peshawar - Jalalabad and Quetta - Kandahar.

In principle approval was given for a scheme where skilled Afghan refugees willing to work in Pakistan could be paid salaries in Pakistan while they could maintain their POR cards. SAFRON was to identify the number and skill proficiency of Afghan Refugees eligible under this scheme and to present an actionable proposal to AICC for final approval of the Prime Minister.

Abandoning Afghanistan again will be a mistake: Dr Moeed

Mol to deliberate on following issues in consultation with all stakeholders and recommend policy decisions to AICC for approval by PM: (i) overstaying foreign/Afghans in Pakistan; (ii) travel of Afghan children under 12 years without passport;(iii) visas for INGO/international organizations staff wanting to work for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan; and (iv) INGOs Registration/temporary presence in Pakistan specifically to carryout humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.

It was decided that the time allowed for security clearance of visas for Afghans (in the categories that need security clearance) will be reduced from the current 30 days to 15 days. If no response is received, clearance would be deemed to have been granted and the visa would be issued thereafter by the Pakistani mission/consulate.

A delegation of high-ranking officials would visit Afghanistan at the earliest for meaningful engagement with Afghan government on all assistance-related prospects.

A Special Cell will be set up as part of the Economic Advisory Council under Adviser Finance to think about out of the box solutions to support Afghanistan financially and for futuristic planning/assisting Afghanistan.

Ministry of Commerce will revisit Afghan export items for which tariff rationalization can be undertaken, keeping in mind the need to remain as flexible as possible at this time of need for Afghanistan.

AICC will get regular input from the business community to understand their problems; and private sector would be taken on board for exploring investment options in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister directed the National Security Advisor (NSA) to update him on progress on each decision within seven days.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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