Eighth Pak-Afghan JEC Held

The eighth conference of the Pak-Afghan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) was held on January 16-17 in Islamabad. The session will help to normalize relations between the two countries. The two-day discussion was on mutual trade, economic coordination, transit trade and different bilateral issues.

It was first high-level contact between the two neighboring countries after the assassination of Prof Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul last year.

Rashid Saleem Khan who has served as director general in the ministry of foreign affairs on the Afghan desk for a number of years, believes “It is a great opportunity for both countries to repair their diplomatic and business relations.”

The Afghan minister of finance, who led Afghan delegation and accompanying of a team of officials and Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) representatives have attended in the JEC.

Pak-Afghan ties experienced a serious setback following President Hamid Karzai’s attempts to implicate Islamabad in the assassination of the Prof Rabbani.

Relations saw further deterioration on November 26, 2011, when NATO helicopters from Afghanistan killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in strikes against two military posts near the Afghan border. Pakistan retaliated by boycotting the Afghanistan conference in Bonn on December 5, sticking to its decision, despite Karzai’s requests to the Pakistani Prime Minister.

Islamabad also imposed a ban on NATO, preventing supply trucks for the US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan from using Pakistani territories as a mark of protest.

At the JEC, both sides discussed on implementation of decisions taken by the two countries at the previous conference.

To ease the talks, PM Gilani allowed a two-month waiver to the Afghan traders for non-submission of financial guarantees for Kabul-bound transit goods in July last year .

He also directed the ministry of finance to constitute three committees to resolve the issues pertaining to the JEC on a priority basis. The waiver was extended for another month after the two initial months as officials from both sides could not succeed in resolving the nitty-gritty of the JEC’s issues. The waiver continued despite the expiry of three months. Additionally, ACCI has played a helpful role at this regard.

Under the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement Afghan importers were bound to submit insurance guarantees equal to 100% duties on the imported items.

Earlier, insurance companies had refused to extend the guarantees due to high premium costs, compelling PM to waive the condition for two months.