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Pak-Afghan entrepreneurs stress for visa free borders to improve bilateral trade August 23, 2013
Meeting at ICCI
Pakistan and Afghanistan should allow visa free mutual visits to business persons of both countries that would greatly help in improving bilateral trade and economic relations. This was the consensus opinion of Pak-Afghan entrepreneurs at an interactive session at Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry. 
A large delegation of Afghan women entrepreneurs including some parliamentarians accompanied by Ms. Sameena Imtiaz, Executive Director, Peace Education and Development (PEAD) Foundation participated in the interactive session on the theme “Trade and Economy in the region; role of women”. 
They were of the opinion that Pakistan and Afghanistan have tremendous potential to increase commercial relations, but their strict visa regimes were the main hurdle in promoting bilateral trade. They said soft visa policy would be beneficial for both countries as Pakistan would provide landlocked Afghanistan easy access to South Asian markets while Afghanistan would provide access to Pakistan to Central Asian markets. 
They emphasized that both countries should develop soft borders with visa free movement of people and goods. For this purpose, both countries should be closely connected with road and railway links. They demanded that both countries should take effective measures for eradicating existing trade barriers including customs clearance issues, payment problems through banks, transportation problems, smuggling etc. to increase bilateral trade up to a satisfactory level. 
The Afghan businesswomen said that Afghan traders are facing difficulties in timely clearance of imported goods at the Karachi Port and such delays sometimes cost them more than the actual price of goods and demanded that Government of Pakistan should remove such hurdles to facilitate Afghan traders in smooth trade.
Speaking at this occasion, Zafar Bakhtawari, President, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has a vision to extend motorways and communications links not only to Kabul but also to Central and South Asian regions. He hoped that materialization of such plans would create new economic opportunities for business communities of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He said Pakistan wants peace in Afghanistan because without stability in Afghanistan, two way trade and economic relations cannot progress. He said the current volume of bilateral trade of $2.5 billion is far below the potential as both countries have the potential to take mutual trade up to $10 billion. However, for this to happen, facilitation measures are essential. Pakistan can export cement, textiles, food items, oil, furniture, construction materials, fruit & vegetable, rice, wheat, engineering goods and many other items to Afghanistan while Pakistani investors can contribute in the development of Afghanistan by participating in huge reconstruction projects. 
Zafar Bakhtawari said if European countries can reap rich economic benefits by allowing free movement of people and goods, Pakistan and Afghanistan should also adopt visa free regime to create new economic opportunities for their people. He said next century is going to be the century of Asia and both countries should focus on developing regional economic blocks for economic prosperity. Ms. Sameena Imtiaz, Executive Director, PEAD also spoke on the occasion and stressed for strong business relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Prominent businesswomen of Islamabad were also present at the occasion.

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