- Information Minister says initiative aimed at boosting trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Tuesday that the federal cabinet had approved a new visa regime for the Afghan citizens including traders and those who sought to visit the country on medical grounds.
The visa policy for Afghans was reviewed by the Interior Ministry (Afghan Inter-ministerial cell) during an apex committee meeting which also included representatives of the Foreign Office, NADRA, and Board of Investment, Aurangzeb informed while addressing a news conference, following the federal cabinet meeting chaired by the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Flanked by the Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Kashmir Affairs Qamar Zaman Kaira, the information minister said under the reviewed policy, Pakistan missions abroad would process the visa applications of Afghans on the basis of existing passport and nationality instead of their country of origin.
In order to further promote bilateral trade with Afghanistan, she said the cabinet had okayed the inclusion of a sub-category in the work visa category for drivers, transporters and helpers.
The approval for introducing the sub-category in the online visa system was also given during the meeting.
The information minister further apprised that a multi-entry visa for six months would be issued within 48 hours, while the interior ministry had been authorized to extend the period to one year.
She said the documents required for obtaining the visa would include the applicant’s picture, passport, transport company registration, and employment letters, while the entry visa page would need to be submitted for the visa extension.
Aurangzeb said the Afghans who sought visas in driver, transporter, and helper categories were exempted from obtaining the BOI’s letter of recommendation and registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).
She said the initiative was aimed at ensuring the ease of doing business which would eventually boost the trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The minister said the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) had been directed to bring changes in the online system after approval of the policy.
A committee had been set up to ensure the continuity of ease of doing business for traders, she added.
The minister said the cabinet approved relaxing the visa policy for those coming from Afghanistan on medical grounds.
Meanwhile, the cabinet had also ratified decisions taken by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) during its meeting held on June 22.
The technical supplementary grants approved by the ECC included Rs125,819,029 for various requirements of 6 Aviation Squadron, Cabinet Division (Customs Duties and Payment of Clearing Agent), Rs40 Million for the media publicity campaign by the NCOC, Rs1,224.41 million for payment admissible to the families of deceased / shaheed families under Prime Minister’s Assistance Package, Rs39.363 million for purchase of surveillance cameras with accessories for maintaining law & order situation during upcoming protest/sit-in by a political party and others.
Aurangzeb said the cabinet had strongly condemned the attack on the polio team in Tank which claimed the lives of two police constables and one health worker.
She said the interior minister had been directed to present a report on the incident in the next meeting of the cabinet.
The information said that an integrated management system was set up at the borders during the PML-N tenure from 2013 to 2018.
Besides, she said an integrated border management system was also set up at airports and borders in 2015.
She said that in the past whenever visa policy was relaxed for Afghans, NADRA was not included and this was the first time that NADRA would be monitoring the entire system.
The minister clarified that efforts were made keeping in view the ease of doing business, and a complete mechanism was prepared for its effective use.
Speaking regarding the load shedding issue, she said the government was taking steps to provide an uninterrupted supply of electricity.
The work on ongoing power projects, abandoned by the previous regime, had been accelerated. She said the work on the incomplete projects was started by the PML-N’s previous government but stopped during the “inefficient” regime of PTI.
Marriyum said the cases against Ishaq Dar were fake and part of the political vendetta of the PTI regime. The former finance minister has the right to return back to the country, she added.