Afghanistan 'misusing' transit trade agreement: FO

Customs authorities should ensure border trade complies with understandings, agreements between both countries, says FO spokesperson

Mariana Baabar
Goods carrier trucks cross into Pakistan at the zero point Torkham border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Nangarhar province on February 25, 2023. — AFP
Goods carrier trucks cross into Pakistan at the zero point Torkham border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Nangarhar province on February 25, 2023. — AFP

  • FO says Customs authorities should ensure trade complies with agreements. 
  • Spokesperson says trade on rise as Pakistan facilitated trade with Afghanistan. 
  • Expresses concern over cross-border terrorist attacks in different areas.

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office has said that the interim Afghanistan government is misusing the transit trade agreement, The News reported Friday.

FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch made these comments in a weekly press briefing during which she expressed concerns about the misuse of transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

“We are concerned that the transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan is being misused,” the spokesperson said. 

“It is important for our Customs authorities to ensure that any border trade that takes place complies with the understandings and agreements that exist between Pakistan and Afghanistan and that such commercial activities do not contravene Pakistani laws," said Baloch. 

The Foreign Office added that the trade between both countries was on the rise, calling it an established fact. The statement said that the activity has grown because Pakistan facilitated trade with Afghanistan. 

The relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan is already tense following the September 6 clash between the security forces of the two countries, which left a Frontier Corps soldier injured. This led to the closure of the Torkham border for over a week. 

Expressing concern over terrorist attacks in the country’s different areas from across the border, Baloch said: “I would like to reiterate what we have said in the past. Pakistan is concerned about the security threat emanating from Afghanistan. There have been recent incidents, including in Chitral, on 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.”

With regard to the statement by the Afghan Foreign Ministry about transit trade with India, the FO said that the transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan does not include overland trade between Afghanistan and India through Wagah via Pakistan.

PM to address UN General Assembly on Sep 22

Baloch said caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar accompanied by interim Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani will participate in the high-level debate of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York from September 18-23. 

This will be Kakar’s first overseas visit after the cancellation of an officially announced one to Kenya, for which no reason was given either by the Foreign Office or the Prime Minister’s Office.

“The prime minister will address the UN General Assembly on 22 September 2023,” announced the spokeswoman at the Foreign Office during the weekly media briefing.

When questioned whether the interim prime minister would make a stopover in Saudi Arabia, she said: “The details of the flight and visit programme are still being finalised. We will share more details once these arrangements are finalised.”

Pakistan welcomes statements about polls

To several queries regarding foreign diplomats meeting the chief election commissioner and others from various world capitals and commenting on Pakistan’s upcoming elections, the spokesperson said that Pakistan is fully capable of overcoming the challenges that it faces.

“There have been statements by countries that they support free and fair elections and there are statements that they do not wish to intervene in Pakistani politics. We welcome those statements. We expect the relevant embassies to reflect on how their activities are being perceived by the Pakistani public and whether the activities that they engage in can actually contribute to the promotion of democracy and the cause of free and fair elections in Pakistan,” she cautioned.

On the surprising news that China had posted its first ambassador in Kabul who had presented his credentials to the interim prime minister of Afghanistan and whether this was the first step before recognising Kabul, the spokesperson responded, “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.”

Connectivity projects 'critical' for peace

While the G20 summit announced its connectivity project in New Delhi last week, the spokesperson said Pakistan has always said that connectivity projects are critical for the peace and prosperity of our region.

“And that is why Pakistan has supported the Belt and Road Initiative, of which China Pakistan Economic Corridor is the flagship project. 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 materialises. 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 said.

To a query on an Israeli delegation visiting Saudi Arabia, she replied, “As far as the meeting in Riyadh is concerned, I think the meeting was in the context of Unesco World Heritage Committee and we have no further comments on that.” 

Regarding the Afghan refugees, which have been in the news lately, the spokesperson said that there is a process of registration of Afghan refugees, which is undertaken by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office, in consultation with the Safron Ministry.

“So, this is the state of play. Those Afghan refugees who are registered, are registered in collaboration with UNHCR. 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.” 

On the visit of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to Russia, she said Pakistan hoped that any conversations that take place between different leaders contribute to peace for the region and the world.

Regarding reports about an outstanding electricity bill of Rs140 million against the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the spokesperson replied, “I must clarify that this ministry is in a government building and like in case of the Secretariat, the electricity bills of this ministry are paid by the CDA and not by the ministry itself. Further questions may be referred to CDA.”