Pak, Afghan reach understanding on bilateral transit pact

Pak and Afghan today reached an understanding on major issues related to a new bilateral transit trade pact though Indian exports to Afghanistan via the Wagah land route will not be permitted under the proposed agreement.

Islamabad: Pakistan and Afghanistan
today reached an understanding on major issues related to a
new bilateral transit trade pact though Indian exports to
Afghanistan via the Wagah land route will not be permitted
under the proposed agreement.

"It has been agreed that no Indian export to
Afghanistan will be allowed through Wagah. However,
Afghanistan would have the opportunity to export to India,"
said a statement issued by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s

Pakistan will reciprocally be able to export its goods
to Central Asia through Afghanistan, the statement said.

Final shape was given to the proposed pact, which will
replace an agreement signed in 1965, during seven protracted
rounds of negotiations.

The official statement said the two sides had reached
"an understanding on all major issues" related to the
Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement and concluded the
"process of negotiations in this regard".

A "broad-based record note" was signed this evening by
Pakistan`s Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim and his
Afghan counterpart Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady in the presence of
Gilani and visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Islamabad has for long resisted pressure from Kabul to
allow the export of Indian goods by land through Pakistani

The record note stated that Pakistan and Afghanistan
"hope that the resolution of all outstanding matters" related
to the Transit Trade Agreement will help in the early signing
of the pact after completion of legal processes by both sides.

"The Agreement thus signed would be an important
milestone in the development of Pak-Afghan trade and economic
relationship to the mutual benefit of both sides," the note

The note further said Afghan trucks will be allowed to
carry export cargo on designated routes to Pakistani seaports
and the Wagah land border post.

Afghan transport units, on their return, will be
permitted to carry goods from Pakistan to Afghanistan "under
the same expeditious procedures and conditions as Pakistani
transport units", it added.

The two sides decided Afghan transit goods will be
exported in containers of international specifications.

For a period of three years, standard cargo will be
transported in internationally acceptable and verifiable
standards of sealable trucks while oversize and bulk cargo
imported by ship will be transported in open trucks or other
transport units.

Drivers will be allowed to enter or exit the two
countries on permits that can identified by biometric devices
installed at entry points.

It was also agreed that an Arbitral Tribunal will be
established bilaterally.

To tackle unauthorised trade, it was agreed that
tracking devices will be installed on transport units and a
mechanism for custom-to-custom information sharing will be

Commerce Minister Fahim said the proposed agreement
will allow landlocked Afghanistan to export goods to India
through Pakistan.

President Asif Ali Zardari telephoned his Afghan
counterpart Hamid Karzai to inform him of the finalisation of
the deal, sources in the presidency said.

"President Karzai termed the agreement as a major step
in the promotion of regional trade and congratulated the
people of the two countries on the deal," a source said.

Under the new agreement, Afghan trucks will be allowed
to cross the Torkham land border and deliver goods to any
Pakistani city.

Afghanistan has already given this facility to
Pakistani truckers. Pakistan and Afghanistan had signed a MoU
in Washington in May last year to begin talks on a new transit
trade agreement. The talks were facilitated by the US.

The two countries had agreed to finalise the pact by
the end of 2009, but differences over allowing India to trade
with Afghanistan via Pakistan and concerns over smuggling
delayed the agreement.


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