Pakistan, Afghanistan to hold trade talks in Kabul as part of normalisation efforts


A Pakistani commerce ministry delegation is scheduled to arrive in the Afghan capital Kabul on Monday to explore ways to remove obstacles in transit and bilateral trade, said an Afghan official.

Abdul Salam Jawad, spokesman for the Afghan Commerce Ministry, confirmed to today that Minister of Industry and Commerce Nooruddin Azizi will lead the Afghan delegation.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch confirmed that the Pakistani delegation, headed by Secretary of Commerce Khurram Agha, will undertake the two-day visit.

“Pakistan remains committed to promoting trade and people-to-people ties with Afghanistan,” Baloch added.

Other delegates from Pakistan include Joint Secretary (Ministry of Commerce), Maria Qazi, Additional Secretary Commerce Dr Wajid Ali Khan, Director General Transit Trade and Additional Secretary of Interior Khushal Khan.

Discussions will be held on overall bilateral and transit trade, said the Afghan Commerce Ministry’s spokesman.

“We will take up the issue of a ban on several transit items. Pakistan has banned the import of certain items under the transit agreement. Around 50 per cent of transit trade has been decreased due to this ban and shifted to Iran,” Jawad said.

The talks will be held amid efforts by both sides to normalise relations following Pakistani airstrikes in two Afghan provinces on March 18.

Afghan charge d’affaires Sardar Shokaib Ahmad rushed to Kabul to brief officials about his meetings in Islamabad.

Shokaib met acting Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and briefed him regarding recent developments in the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, deputy foreign ministry spokesman Hafiz Zia Ahmad Takkal said.

“During the meeting, Mawlawi Sardar Ahmed Shakib, acting head of the Afghan embassy in Pakistan, shared the report of his recent meetings with the Pakistani officials with FM Muttaqi, and held in-depth discussion thereof,” Takkal wrote on X.

“Following briefing, FM Muttaqi gave necessary instructions to the Acting Head of the Afghan embassy in Islamabad with regards to the existing situation and relations of the two countries,” he said.

The Afghan embassy earlier said that Shakib met Pakistan’s Special envoy for Afghanistan Asif Durrani on March 22 and “addressed recent challenges between the two countries, the revitalisation of political, commercial, people-to-people and other aspects of bilateral relations.”

On March 11, Afghan Minister of Industry and Commerce Nooruddin Azizi held an online meeting with Secretary Pakistan Commerce Ministry Khurram Agha and explored ways to establish closer relations, solve challenges and prevent the occurrence of bottlenecks in trade and transit between the two countries, the ministry wrote on X.

The Afghan Commerce Ministry said the two sides spoke about the progress made over the last two years. They discussed options for increasing the volume of bilateral trade, solving problems and removing trade and transit barriers, providing more facilities, establishing close relations between the public and private sectors of the two countries, and increasing regional cooperation.

The Afghan minister also invited Khurram Agha to visit Kabul with a delegation to hold further discussions on bilateral trade issues. Pakistani and Afghan business leaders expect the talks in Kabul will be useful.

Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI) Khan Jan Alkozai said that the new government in Pakistan will address the concerns of Afghan importers. Alkozai mentioned a 10 per cent hike in import duty on Afghan transit trade introduced in October last year. He also complained about adding more transit items to the negative list.

“More problems for Afghan importers were created during the caretaker government in Pakistan. Pakistan and the Islamic Emirate should pave the way to normalise bilateral and transit trade,” Alkozai told from Kabul today.

He said transit via Pakistan has substantially decreased and Afghan importers moved their business to ports in Iran.

Pakistani traders also urge officials to facilitate transit and bilateral trade with Afghanistan as it is a win-win situation for both.

Coordinator PAJCCI Zia-ul-Haq Sarhadi recalled that in October the Ministry of Commerce, through issuing SRO 1380, imposed a ban on 14 items of Afghan Transit Trade which in a larger context constitute around 212 items, besides the enforcement of 100 per cent bank guarantee.

“The cargo goods were already covered under insurance guarantee and all the goods were going safely to Afghanistan for the last 13 years,” Sarhadi told today. He demanded revoking the 100 per cent bank guarantee and the revival of the old insurance guarantee system.

Sarhadi recalled that both countries had set the target of increasing trade volume to $5 billion, but it had decreased to $1.4 billion.

Pakistani and Afghan traders have long been insisting on separating trade from political issues, however, no attention has ever been paid to this demand.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif warned this week that Islamabad could block the corridor it provided to Afghanistan for trade with India. The defence minister asserted that Pakistan had the right to stop facilitating Kabul if it failed to curb anti-Pakistan terrorists operating on Afghan soil.

“If Afghanistan treats us like an enemy, then why should we give them a trade corridor?” he asked in an interview with Voice of