Pakistan loosens travel restrictions, announces aid to Afghanistan | New

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Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan will provide more than $ 28 million in immediate humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and ease travel and trade restrictions at its land borders.

The announcement was made on Thursday after Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi concluded a day-long trip to Kabul, his first since the Taliban seized power in the neighboring country.

Speaking at a press conference in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, Qureshi said delegation-level talks with the interim Afghan government, including interim Afghan prime minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund, were positive.

“The Pakistani people stand with the Afghan people at this difficult time,” Qureshi said. “We never left room for it, and it remains our thought.”

Pakistan’s restrictions on the movement of goods and travelers through the two main land crossings between the countries had been a key point of tension in recent weeks.

Qureshi announced significant policy changes after his visit to Kabul.

Afghan visitors to Pakistan with valid visas will now be able to cross the border freely, with an electronic visa system introduced to streamline the visa application process, he said.

Visa fees were also waived until December 31. An additional documentary and fee requirement for a “pass” has also been removed.

Afghan travelers seeking medical treatment in Pakistan or facing a medical emergency will be granted visas upon arrival.

Border crossing times were also increased, with the pedestrian crossing corridor open 12 hours a day, up from eight hours previously, and the trade corridor became operational 24 hours a day.

Economic measures

Since taking power in mid-August, the Taliban’s interim government in Afghanistan has faced a worsening economic crisis, with most central bank assets frozen abroad and economic activity internal practically stopping.

Responding to these concerns, Qureshi said Pakistan had removed tariffs on the import of fresh Afghan fruits and vegetables and that a working group had been formed to examine where tariffs could be reduced or removed on other products. .

“With trade in mind… Afghan businessmen faced many challenges,” Qureshi said. “Now we have decided that if an Afghan businessman wants to come to Pakistan for trade, he will get a visa on arrival for 30 days.”

Talks were also held on security issues, with Pakistan expressing concern over the use of Afghan soil by the Pakistani Taliban armed group, also known as TTP, against Pakistan.

“They said in very clear terms that now, with them there, Pakistan should not be afraid that Afghan soil is used against [Pakistan]”Qureshi said.

Qureshi said he had “spelled out” the international community’s expectations of the Afghan Taliban interim government in order to gain international recognition.

“I have stated the things that the international community expects from her… for example, on inclusiveness, for example, on fundamental rights, on women’s rights, on girls’ education, for example, on reduction of space for international terrorist organizations, ”he said.

The Afghan delegation included Acting Prime Minister Akhund, Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Hanafi, Minister of Foreign Affairs Amir Khan Muttaqi, Minister of Finance Hidayatullah Badri, Minister of Defense Muhammad Yaqoob, Minister of Mines and Petroleum Muhammad Isa Akhund, Minister of Commerce Nooruddin Azizi and Minister of Borders and Tribal Areas Noorullah Noori. .

The Pakistani delegation included the head of the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant-General Faiz Hamid, senior security and military officials, officials from the Ministry of Commerce and senior officials from the ministry. Foreign Affairs.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

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