India allowed Wagah transit of Afghan wheat

Imran approves Rs5b humanitarian assistance for Kabul


Kamran Yousaf November 22, 2021

ISLAMABAD:

Despite simmering tensions and suspension of trade with India, the government on Monday decided to allow New Delhi to transport 50,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan via its land route.

India had announced the assistance for Afghanistan last month and sought Pakistan’s permission to ship the food grain through the Wagah crossing. Acting Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, who visited Islamabad earlier this month, also made a request to Prime Minister Imran khan for letting the Indian wheat pass through the border crossing.

The prime minister said Pakistan would “favourably consider” the request and directed the authorities concerned to work out the modalities.

On Monday the prime minister presided over a meeting of the newly-established Apex Committee on Afghanistan to discuss the Indian request. The meeting, which was attended by the foreign minister, finance minister, National Security Adviser and the army chief as well as other senior military officials, decided to allow India transport wheat through Pakistan.

Also read: Decision on Indian wheat to Afghanistan expected soon

A statement issued by the PM Office said, Pakistan decided to allow the 50,000 MT of wheat India had offered to Afghanistan as humanitarian assistance to go through Pakistan as soon as modalities were finalised with the Indian side.

“Pakistan will also facilitate the return of Afghan patients who have gone to India for treatment and are stuck there,” the prime minister was quoted as saying in the official hand-out.

The development is significant given the current state of bilateral ties between Pakistan and India and keeping in mind that Pakistan also does not allow a two-way trade between Afghanistan and India.

Islamabad only allows Afghanistan to export its goods through the Wagah border to India.

Importantly, the Taliban government in Afghanistan is ready to accept humanitarian assistance from India, which otherwise does not maintain any contacts with them. But since the Taliban took control of

Afghanistan, there have been efforts on the part of India to reach out to the Taliban.

Meanwhile, the prime minister instructed all ministries to facilitate Afghans to the maximum. He ordered immediate shipment of in-kind humanitarian assistance worth Rs5 billion that will comprise food commodities, including 50,000 MT of wheat, emergency medical supplies, winter shelters and other supplies. He also approved in principle tariff and sales tax reduction on key Afghan exports to Pakistan.

The prime minister also ordered that the facility of free Covid vaccination for all Afghans entering Pakistan from land borders be continued. Pakistan has initiated free vaccination of Afghans since November 13.

Welcoming the Prime Minister, National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf, who is also Convener of the AICC, made a detailed presentation to brief the civil and military leadership on the current economic situation in Afghanistan and the progress made by the AICC in coordinating national efforts for humanitarian assistance and border facilitation for Afghans.

Prime Minister Imran Khan appreciated work of the AICC in coordinating Pakistan’s policy and expressed satisfaction at the improved border management protocols. He ordered that capacity of border staff be enhanced further and instructed that no arbitrary closures of borders for trade should be allowed.

The prime minister also ordered that the bus service between Peshawar and Jalalabad be revived to facilitate travellers on both the sides. To further facilitate Afghans, visa duration will be relaxed such that visas are granted within three weeks at the most.

The participants of the meeting expressed concerns over deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and emphasised that Pakistan will not abandon Afghans in their time of need.

The prime minister took the opportunity to remind the international community of the collective responsibility to support Afghanistan to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

Read more: Pakistan to consider transit of Indian wheat to Afghanistan

He highlighted that Afghans were one of the bravest nations of earth who can meet any adversity but that the world owed its support to ensure that they can live in a peaceful and stable environment after years of constant conflict.

A senior delegation of Afghan health officials will visit Islamabad later this week to work out modalities for Pakistan’s support to Afghanistan’s health sector.

Meanwhile, the prime minister instructed the National Security Adviser to visit Afghanistan to hold delegation level talks and agree on specific areas where immediate capacity building support shall be provided to Afghans.

 

 

 

 

 

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