| Pakistani finance minister Shaukat Aziz (left) and his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani in Islamabad. (AFP)
Islamabad, Aug. 6: Pakistan and Afghanistan today concluded the second joint ministerial commission meeting with mutual pledges to work for political and economic stability in both countries.
Pakistan’s finance minister Shaukat Aziz and his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani headed the talks. Pakistan promised to repair and upgrade the road connecting the Torkham border check post with Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern Afghan province of Ningarhar, as soon as possible.
Pakistan offered to train employees of Afghanistan’s banking, accounting, and postal services. It also removed six items from the list of goods that Afghan traders are allowed to import via Pakistan under the 1965 Transit Trade Agreement.
Aziz said the meeting was very productive and hoped the next instalment, to be held in Kabul later this year, would accelerate bilateral trade and cooperation between the two countries.
Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan during the last fiscal was $435 million compared to imports worth $35 million only.
Responding to a question from journalists on whether Afghanistan was making any effort to improve Pakistani investment in the country, Ashraf Ghani, a banker and a former World Bank official, said: “It is a question of reason not of emotions and reason dictates that we work to improve our economies and facilitate each other.”
“We will provide a level playing field to Pakistani banks seeking to set up operations in my country… but the quality of the services is the factor that is going to count whatever we decide,” Ghani said.
The Afghan finance minister urged Islamabad to forget the past and look at a future relationship based on equality and mutual respect.
On the Gwadar port, which is under construction, 500 km west of Karachi, Ghani said: “We hope Gwadar becomes a port of peace… a hub of trading activity for the entire region.” Gwadar offers the shortest trading route to landlocked Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
However, the two ministers avoided questions relating to Anwarul Haq Ahady, Afghanistan’s central bank governor, whose inflamatory speech instigated an armed attack on the Pakistani embassy in Kabul on July 8.