`Pak territory will not be used for export of Indian goods`

The Pak govt today stepped in to counter mounting criticism of a proposed transit trade agreement with Afghanistan, with Foreign Minister saying the pact will not permit the export of Indian goods through Pak territory.

Last Updated: Jul 22, 2010, 00:24 AM IST

Islamabad: The Pakistan government today
stepped in to counter mounting criticism of a proposed transit
trade agreement with Afghanistan, with Foreign Minister Shah
Mahmood Qureshi saying the pact will not permit the export of
Indian goods through Pakistani territory.

"This is a bilateral agreement between Afghanistan and
Pakistan, period. Let`s not add a third party into it,"
Qureshi said.

One of Pakistan`s "major concerns" was the Afghan
government`s demand to allow Indian exports to Afghanistan via
the Wagah land route, he said.

"That concern was adequately addressed by saying, `No,
that will not happen.` This was a major concession which was
extracted through our negotiations from the Afghans," Qureshi
said in response to a question during a joint news conference
with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

"The major concern vis-a-vis Wagah has been put aside,
the rest were minor details which have been worked out to
mutual benefit," he said.

Qureshi added that the Afghan side "conceded to this
point" during seventh round of negotiations, following which
the two sides signed a "record note" on the proposed pact.

The government has been criticised by Pakistani trade
lobbies and business organisations over negotiations to
finalise a new pact to replace transit trade agreement of
1965.

The business organisations have alleged that the new
agreement, which is being brokered by the US, will eventually
permit Indian goods to be transported to Afghanistan via
Pakistan.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry
has expressed serious concern over the proposed agreement and
asked the government to take all stakeholders into confidence
before giving final approval to the document.

KPCCI president Riaz Arshad said the agreement was being
finalised in haste and recommendations from stakeholders were
ignored.

The new agreement will affect Pakistan`s economy as
thousands of people associated with transport industry,
railways and customs clearing sector will be left jobless, he
claimed.

The annual loss of Pakistan Railways will be around Rs 3
billion if the government allows Afghan trucks to take goods
to the Wagah border, he said.

Arshad said the main issues of smuggling of goods and
access of Indian goods to have not been adequately addressed
by the government.

Allowing Afghan transporters to take back goods from
India and Pakistan will cripple Pakistan`s transportation
industry, he claimed.

Protests have organised in several Pakistani cities
against the agreement.

The government has defended its negotiations with
Afghanistan, with officials saying the proposed pact will have
to be ratified by the cabinet before it is finally signed.

PTI