Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (centre) along with Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood and Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar, speaks during a news conference in Islamabad on October 21, 2021. Image Credit: Reuters

Islamabad: Pakistan has announced it will provide humanitarian aid worth Rs5 billion ($28 million) to Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the announcement after a daylong visit to Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, where he met Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the interim Prime Minister of Taliban’s new government.

Qureshi led a high-level delegation that included economic, aviation, and security officials including DG ISI General Faiz Hameed to discuss trade and security cooperation with the Afghan government. The talks focused on matters related to trade, travel, connectivity projects, humanitarian assistance.

Pakistani foreign minister said he received “assurances” that terror groups such as Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) would not be allowed to use Afghan soil against Pakistan.

Pakistan has witnessed an uptick in terrorist attacks in recent years along the western border regions, several of which were claimed by TTP, BLA and Daesh. This week, at least four Pakistani security personnel lost their lives in an IED attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bajaur district which borders Afghanistan.

New measures to boost trade

Qureshi announced several measures to boost trade with Afghanistan. Pakistan will keep its border with Afghanistan open around the clock to support bilateral trade while the timings for pedestrian crossing at the border have been increased from 8 to 12 hours.

Pakistan revoked the requirements of gate-pass and COVID-19 PCR tests for Afghans travelling to Pakistan via the land border. Visa on arrival facility has also been announced for Afghans travelling for urgent medical treatment and business persons. Pakistan embassy in Kabul will now issue five-year multiple entry visas to Afghan businessmen. Islamabad has also allowed the duty-free import of fruits and vegetables from Afghanistan.

Pakistani foreign minister said that the new Afghan regime supports connectivity projects, including CASA-1000 and TAPI gas pipeline. Pakistani officials also discussed the resumption of flights with Kabul, which were suspended this month.

Qureshi’s to Kabul comes after the third meeting of the ‘Moscow Format’ hosted by Russia and attended by key regional countries and Taliban delegation.

Since September, foreign ministers of Qatar and Uzbekistan have visited Kabul to discuss cooperation with the new Afghan government. Taliban delegations have also travelled to China and Russia for future engagements.