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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Kabul raises issue of refugee assets with Islamabad

Taliban officials say militancy is an internal matter for Pakistan and have called on Islamabad to halt its deportation of Afghan citizens

Update : 19 Nov 2023, 02:04 AM

The Taliban’s acting commerce minister met Pakistan’s foreign minister in Islamabad this week, an Afghan embassy statement said on Tuesday, discussing trade and how the thousands of Afghan citizens Pakistan is expelling could take cash and other assets back to their homeland.

The visit takes place less than a week after Pakistan said that its move to expel hundreds of thousands of undocumented Afghans was a response to the unwillingness of the Taliban-led administration to act against militants using Afghanistan to carry out attacks in Pakistan.

Taliban officials say militancy is an internal matter for Pakistan and have called on Islamabad to halt its deportation of Afghan citizens.

“Bilateral trade, especially the stranded goods of [Afghan] traders in Karachi port, smooth transfer of [Afghan] refugees’ properties to (Afghanistan) and related issues were discussed,” Afghanistan’s embassy in Islamabad said in the statement, on acting commerce minister Haji Nooruddin Azizi’s meeting with caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani.

Afghan citizens returning to Afghanistan have said there are restrictions on the transfer of cash and property to Afghanistan from Pakistan, where many had built businesses and homes for decades.

The Foreign Office said Mr Jilani conveyed the message: “Full potential for regional trade and connectivity can be harnessed with collective action against terrorism.”

The Afghan minister urged Pakistan to release thousands of containers of imports it said were stuck at Karachi Port since Islamabad clamped down on transnational cargo.

Pakistan authorities say they have lost millions of dollars in taxes because goods are being sent duty-free from its ports to land-locked Afghanistan, and then smuggled back across the border.

Afghan authorities say Pakistan has stopped more than 3,000 Afghanistan-bound containers at Karachi port while demanding more tax and duty payments, causing millions of dollars in losses to traders.

The goods include high-end electronics, machine parts, chemicals and textiles — all of which attract huge tariffs if imported to Pakistan.

The quantities of these goods destined for Afghanistan have soared in the past two years and are unrealistic given the size of the market there, Pakistan officials say.

Azizi and Jilani spoke about “the transit problems and challenges of the two countries”, the statement from the Afghan embassy said.

“Hundreds of these containers have been parked since several months, while some have been stopped more than a year. The goods inside are spoiling and the traders are suffering losses,” an official of the Afghan consulate in Peshawar said.

The trade row is one of several thorny issues that have grown between Kabul and Islamabad since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021.

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