In meeting of Afghanistan Inter-Ministerial Coordination Cell, premier says Pakistan will permit India to transport 50,000MT of wheat for Afghans through its territory
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday approved Rs. 5 billion of “in-kind” humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, and announced that Islamabad will permit India to transport food aid to the war-torn state through Pakistan.
Chairing the Apex Committee meeting of the newly established Afghanistan Inter-Ministerial Coordination Cell, he instructed all ministries to facilitate Afghans “to the maximum.” According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, he ordered the immediate shipment of “in-kind” aid comprising food commodities, including 50 tons 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 and ordered authorities to continue free COVID vaccination for all Afghans entering the country from land borders. Pakistan initiated free vaccination of Afghans entering its territory on Nov. 13.
The prime minister, read the PMO statement, announced that Pakistan had decided to permit India to transport 50,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan through its soil “as soon as modalities are finalized with the Indian side.” It said that Pakistan had also decided to facilitate the return of Afghan patients who had gone to India for medical treatment and were stuck there.
A delegation of health officials from Afghanistan will visit Islamabad later this week to work out modalities for Pakistan’s support to Afghanistan’s health sector, the statement added.
Appreciating the work of the AICC in coordinating Pakistan’s policy toward Afghanistan, Khan expressed satisfaction at the improved border management protocols. He ordered that capacity of border staff to be further enhanced, and directed authorities to avoid any arbitrary closures of borders for trade. “The prime minister also ordered that bus service between Peshawar and Jalalabad be revived to facilitate travelers on both sides,” it added.
To facilitate Afghans, the AICC decided, the visa duration would be relaxed so entry permits could be granted within a maximum of three weeks.
Last week, U.N. Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons warned that the country was “on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe” with nearly 60 percent of its population expected to face extreme levels of hunger, especially over the winter season.
The participants of the AICC expressed concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and emphasized that Pakistan would 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 the statement. It said he highlighted that Afghans were among the bravest nations of earth who could overcome any adversity but required global support to ensure they could live in a peaceful and stable environment after years of constant conflict.
In addition to the prime minister, the meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Adviser on Finance Shaukat Tarin, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Bajwa, National Security Adviser Moeed Yousuf and senior civil and military officers. At the onset of the meeting, Yusuf welcomed Khan and provided a detailed presentation to 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.
Khan instructed the National Security Adviser to visit Afghanistan and hold delegation-level talks to achieve consensus on specific areas where Afghans needed immediate capacity building support.