The Government of Pakistan on Tuesday decided to relax its visa policies for bilateral trade with Afghanistan, with the federal cabinet hoping it will improve the economies both countries.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, the decision was taken during a meeting of the federal cabinet presided over by P.M. Shehbaz Sharif. It said he directed authorities concerned to issue six-month, multiple-entry visas to transporters from Afghanistan, as well as approving various proposals put forward by the Afghan Inter-Ministerial Coordination Cell. The cabinet also directed all Pakistani embassies abroad to assess Afghan visa applications on the basis of current nationality and passport instead of the country of origin.
The cabinet also decided to introduce a sub-category under work visas for the online visa system, and granted the interior ministry the authority to extend the six-month limit of multiple-entry visas to a year.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that all incoming transporters from Afghanistan would be required to provide their photograph, passport, registration as a transport company, and employment letter as part of their visa documents. A previous condition requiring recommendation letters by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and the Board of Investment has been removed.
Per the P.M. Office, the National Database and Registration Authority would now be directed to change the online visa system of Pakistan in line with the cabinet directives. It said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Board of Investment would also link the online visa system with online payments for the promotion of ease of doing business.
“We need to remove all hurdles for Afghans in order to help them and to provide them a conducive environment to invest in Pakistan who seek opportunities in Gulf states,” P.M. Sharif said, adding that a policy for this would be formulated within two weeks.
In a post-cabinet press conference, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the visa policy for Afghans was reviewed by the Interior Ministry’s Afghan Inter-Ministerial Cell during an apex committee meeting.
Additionally, the cabinet also endorsed technical supplementary grants approved by the Economic Coordination Committee of Rs. 125.8 million for various requirements of 6 Aviation Squadron; Rs. 40 million for publicity campaigns by the National Command and Operation Center; Rs. 1.22 billion for payment admissible to the families of deceased/shuhada under the Prime Minister’s Assistance Package; and Rs. 39.36 million for the purchase of surveillance cameras with accessories for maintaining law and order during future protests.