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Foreign Office Says Afghanistan ‘Misusing’ Transit Trade Agreement

Spokesperson says customs authorities must ensure trade complies with existing agreements, does not violate any laws

by Staff Report

File photo of Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch

The Foreign Office on Thursday said the interim Afghanistan government is misusing the transit trade agreement with Pakistan, adding Customs authorities must ensure any border trade complies with existing agreements and does not violate law.

In a weekly press briefing, spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch acknowledged that trade between the neighboring nations was on the rise, stressing this was because Pakistan had facilitated trade with Afghanistan. “Our major concern is that sometimes the exports that are meant for Afghanistan are diverted back to Pakistan and the customs duties and taxes are not paid as they should be,” she said, adding customs authorities were concerned people were “misusing the bilateral provisions that allow for trade with Afghanistan.” She said these concerns would be taken up with Afghan authorities.

With regard to a statement of the Afghan Foreign Ministry about transit trade with India, the spokesperson said the transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan did not include overland trade between Afghanistan and India.

To a question on terrorist attacks across Pakistan originating from Afghanistan, Baloch reiterated that Islamabad considered all entities advocating terrorism an “equal threat” and was committed to fighting them all with full force. “There have been recent incidents, including in Chitral, on Sept. 6, as well as the incident on the border on the same day,” she said. “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.

Foreign envoys and elections

To a question on U.K. High Commissioner to Pakistan Jane Marriott’s recent meeting with Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, Baloch said that while Pakistan welcomed foreign governments’ statements in support of free and fair elections, they should consider how their activities were perceived by the public.

“We expect relevant embassies to reflect on how their activities in Pakistan are being perceived by the Pakistani public and whether such activities can actually contribute to promotion of democracy and the cause of free and fair elections in Pakistan,” she said, stressing the people of Pakistan were fully capable of overcoming the challenges facing the country.

To a query on U.S. Ambassador Donald Blome’s visit to Gwadar earlier this week, the spokesperson said it was an important project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “We consider it the crown jewel of Pakistan-China cooperation under CPEC. We have welcomed international cooperation under CPEC and investments by third parties. We have also welcomed foreign dignitaries and diplomats to visit Gwadar and see for themselves the potential of Gwadar and how it can be a game changer for prosperity in this region,” she said.

Discussing China’s posting of its first ambassador in Kabul and whether this had any impact on Pakistan recognizing Kabul, she said: “We have seen the recent decision by the Chinese government. Pakistan’s position on our relations with the Afghan interim government and the recognition question has not changed.”

Responding to a question on the connectivity project unveiled in New Delhi during a G20 summit last week, the spokesperson said Pakistan has always said that such projects are critical for regional peace and prosperity. “That is why Pakistan has supported the Belt and Road Initiative, of which the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the flagship project,” she said. “Pakistan has also seen the recent announcements that you have referred to. The project or the proposal itself is at the stage of conception, so we will be in a position to comment once this project materializes. We believe that decisions on different connectivity projects should be made on a case-to-case basis, keeping in view a number of factors including the implication for other countries,” she added.

Interim P.M. Kakar

Baloch said caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, along with interim Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani, would participate in the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York from Sept. 18-23. “The prime minister will address the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 22,” she said, adding the details of the flight and visit program were still being finalized.

Responding to a question on Afghan refugees and a reported crackdown on them across Pakistan, the spokesperson said there was a process to register Afghan refugees undertaken by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in consultation with the SAFRON Ministry. “It is the SAFRON Ministry which is in charge of the welfare of refugees in Pakistan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs remains in regular contact with both UNHCR and with SAFRON Ministry. The policy with regard to refugees, their continued stay in Pakistan, is developed by the Government of Pakistan,” she added.

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