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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan, on Thursday, expressed concerns over the “misuse” of the Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) and expressed willingness to engage with Afghan authorities to address these practices, as Torkham border gate remained closed for the ninth day now hampering bilateral as well as transit trade with the neighbouring country.

Speaking at her weekly media briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said Pakistan had been implementing “in good faith” the agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan with regard to transit trade.

“We have facilitated our landlocked neighbour in their access to the rest of the world in terms of trade and we will continue to do so. We have also said that there have been some concerns of Pakistan regarding misuse of the transit trade agreement on which we will engage with the Afghan authorities to end these practices,” she added.

Afghan Taliban criticises closure of main border crossing with Pakistan

When asked to elaborate as to how the agreement was being misused, she explained that Pakistan’s major concern was that sometimes the exports that were meant for Afghanistan were diverted back to Pakistan and the customs duties and taxes were not paid as they should be. “So, there are certain concerns of our customs authorities that people are misusing the bilateral provisions that allow for trade with Afghanistan,” she further explained.

She also stated that it was important for Pakistan’s customs authorities to ensure that any border trade that took place complies with the understandings and agreements that existed between Pakistan and Afghanistan and that such commercial activities did not contravene Pakistani laws.

With regard to the bilateral trade with Afghanistan, she said the trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan was on the rise and “this is an established fact”, adding the bilateral trade had grown because Pakistan had facilitated trade with Afghanistan.

About the statement by the Afghan Foreign Ministry with regard to the transit trade with India, the spokesperson clarified that the transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan did not include overland trade between Afghanistan and India through Wagah via Pakistan.

The statement of the spokesperson comes amid the continued closure of the Torkham border gate for all kinds of movement for nine days now following the exchange of fire between the security forces of the two countries over a dispute on a border post, as traders on both sides are expressing serious concerns over the continued closure of trade and other routine movement.

In response to a question, the spokesperson underlined that the closure of the border is temporary. “We will make the decision regarding its opening in view of the developments that take place in the coming hours and days,” she added.

About the threat posed by the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), she said Pakistan was concerned about the security threat emanating from Afghanistan.

“There have been recent incidents including in Chitral on the 6 September, as well as the incident on the border on the same day. We believe that such incidents embolden the terrorists and that is why it is important for the Afghan interim authorities to ensure that Afghan territory is not used to threaten Pakistan,” she added.

Asked to comment on China’s decision to deploy its ambassador in Afghanistan, she said: “We have seen the recent decision by the Chinese government”, adding that Pakistan’s position on its relations with the Afghan interim government and the recognition question had not changed.

Elaborating on the caretaker Prime Minister’s statement that a plan has been devised to send back the Afghan refugees who are illegally residing in the country, the spokesperson said Pakistan had welcomed its Afghan brothers and sisters with open arms by hosting them for the last several decades.

“They have been living here in peace and dignity and have been active participants in the Pakistani economy,” she said, adding that at the same time, the government of Pakistan had to ensure that its laws were respected and that no elements among those Afghan refugees were harbouring terrorists or had terror links.

“So, any action or any decisions which will be taken with respect to the Afghan refugees will be according to Pakistani laws, will be selective, and we will ensure that there are solid cases when any such decisions are made,” she added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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