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ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar on Tuesday visited Kabul and held talks with top authorities of the Afghan interim government of Taliban on bilateral trade, economic relations, transit, and connectivity.

During a day-long visit, Khar held meetings with Deputy Prime Minister of Interim Afghan government Abdul Salam Hanafi, Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, a luncheon meeting with a delegation of Afghan Women Chamber of Commerce, and other senior officials of the Taliban interim government. Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan ambassador (retired) Mohammad Sadiq also accompanied the minister of state in the talks.

On her arrival at Kabul International Airport, Khar was received by Deputy Minister for Economy Abdul Latif Nazari and Pakistan’s Head of Mission of Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul Ubaidur Rahman Nizamani.

Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, who was also part of the delegation, said Khar held a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister of Interim Afghan government Abdul Salam Hanafi. Minister for Mines and Petroleum Shahabuddin Delawar was also present. Bilateral trade, connectivity, and people-to-people contacts were discussed during the meeting, she added.

She said the MoS also held a meeting with the Commerce Minister of Afghan Interim government Haji Nooruddin Azizi. Bilateral trade, economic relations, transit, and connectivity came under particular focus during the meeting, while the two sides also discussed mechanisms to oversee cooperation in these areas.

Khar had a luncheon meeting with a delegation of Afghan Women Chamber of Commerce. “She underlined the important role of women in the society and expressed Pakistan’s keen interest in strengthening linkages between women entrepreneurs of Pakistan and Afghanistan,” the spokesperson said, adding that she announced that Pakistan would give special preference to import of products produced by businesses run by women.

She said that Khar also held political consultations with Amir Khan Muttaqi. “A range of bilateral issues of common interest including cooperation in education, health, trade and investment, regional connectivity, people-to-people contacts & socioeconomic projects were discussed,” she added.

A statement issued by Foreign Office said, the Minister of State in her engagements reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to peaceful, stable, prosperous and connected Afghanistan. She reiterated Pakistan’s resolve to further deepen and strengthen multifaceted ties between the two countries and build an enduring partnership for shared prosperity.

The Minister of State underscored the imperatives for the international community to practically engage with the Interim Afghan Government to help Afghanistan address the dire humanitarian situation and the challenges of reconstruction and socio-economic development. She also stressed that the unfreezing of Afghanistan’s financial assets would contribute to this end.

Recalling the immutable bonds of geography, history, culture and language, the two sides agreed on the significance of sustained bilateral political dialogue and the vital role of institutional mechanisms to advance the myriad tracks of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.

The two sides also emphasized the importance of Afghanistan as a land bridge between Central Asia and South Asia and its pivotal role in promoting regional connectivity including through transportation links and mega energy projects such as TAPI and CASA-1000.

The two sides discussed matters related to enhanced regional security with mutual cooperation, including in countering terrorism, and issues and policies which would impact the interim Government’s engagement with the international community.

“Today’s visit of the Minister of State was a manifestation of the high importance Pakistan attaches to its longstanding fraternal relationship with Afghanistan,” said the FO statement.

In a statement, Hafiz Zia Ahmad, Deputy Spokesman and Assistant Director of Public Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi welcomed the delegation and called relations between the two neighbouring countries beneficial for the people and the region while raising with the Pakistani delegation issues related to release of Afghan prisoners in Pakistan, facilitating the movement of people, improvement and acceleration of trade and transit.

He added that Muttaqi also expressed his readiness for the commencement of the TAPI, TAP, railways, and other major projects, and reiterated the position of the Islamic Emirate regarding political relations, economic growth, and security.

“The Pakistani delegation pledged to cooperate regarding the good treatment of Afghan refugees, ways of commuting and resolving visa-related problems and that it will take necessary steps to broaden and enhance trade and transit with Afghanistan,” the statement added.

It further stated that Khar said that as Afghanistan and Pakistan are two neighbouring Muslim countries with common cultures, the governments of the two countries should cooperate and secure mutual bilateral interests.

“It was agreed to create new mechanisms for bilateral cooperation so that all shared opportunities and issues can be analysed through dialogue and progress achieved,” according to the statement, which also stated that the two sides pledged to take fruitful and positive steps moving forward and find solutions to the problems.

Khar’sKabul visit comes a day after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ended its ceasefire and directed its fighters to resume attacks. The Afghan Taliban had earlier brokered a ceasefire deal between Pakistan and the TTP after a series of talks through the local tribal elders which the militant outfit ended on Sunday blaming the security forces and intelligence agencies for military actions against their operatives in Lakki Marwat, Tank, and Bannu areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

In a related development, the Borki-Kharlachi border in Kurram district was reopened on Sunday after closure for a few days following security forces of the two sides exchanged heavy fire over a dispute over a piece of land.

The development comes following local elders of Pakistan’s Turi tribe and Afghanistan’s Zazi tribe held a successful Jirga for two consecutive days in which the two sides resolve to address the border issues through negotiations.

Altaf Hussain Ibrahimi, a local elder belonging to Turi tribe, told this correspondent that the two sides held positive and successful talks at Borki-Kharlachi border, facilitated by the governments of the two countries.

He said that it was unanimously decided that the two sides would advise their respective governments to resolve the border disputes through negotiation and avoid armed confrontation.

“We advised the formation of a powerful jirga, having representation of the government officials from the two sides and the local elders to redefine the original boundaries along the Durand Line, bordering Paktia and Pakita provinces of Afghanistan with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,” Ibrahimi said.

He added that the two sides also resolve that Afghanistan side would return Pakistan’s land and Pakistan to Afghanistan’s land that was left beyond the border fence erected by the government of Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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