ISLAMABAD, Aug 5: Afghanistan wants Islamabad to extend sufficient financial support and facilities, much the same way New Delhi has offered to Kabul, to get in return a fair treatment, especially for its private sector.

Informed sources told Dawn that at the concluding session of the two-day second joint economic commission meeting here on Tuesday Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani indirectly set conditions for increased cooperation between the two countries.

Dr Ghani said India had provided 400 vehicles to Afghanistan and was establishing fibreglass factories there besides extending financial and technical support for improving educational facilities across the country.

Sources said the Afghan minister called for eliminating the negative list. He said there was no justification to continue enforcing the negative list of trade items under the 1965 agreement as well as other international agreements.

The visiting delegation believed that Pakistan would not do any favour to Afghanistan in case the negative list was removed. Kabul felt that by enforcing the negative list Islamabad had snatched its right to have free trade.

The delegation was assured that the negative list, made under the Afghan Transit Trade, would be discarded before the end of 2003.

Sources quoted Dr Ghani as having told the participants of the meeting that it was difficult to provide overnight security to Pakistani embassy staff or its private sector.

He reportedly said that both sides would have to look after the interests of each other for seeking certain special favours from each other.

The minister appreciated the conversion of $100 million Pakistani soft loan into grant and called for early disbursement of its annual tranches.

Sources said the Afghan delegation was reminded by some Pakistani businessmen that a number of contracts earlier awarded to them had been withdrawn and handed over to the Indians.

The minister replied that it was a time of competition and that Pakistanis would have to compete as Kabul could not do anything in this behalf.

“Some of the projects were withdrawn from the Pakistanis and given to the Indians, including the contract for the construction of Intercontinental hotel in Kabul,” a Pakistani businessman, who attended the meeting, told Dawn. He said the attitude of the Afghan delegation was different from the one exhibited at the first joint economic commission meeting held a few months ago in Kabul.

“We are not receiving adequate support from the government to do business in Afghanistan,” complained a local businessman who attended the meeting. He said Pakistani private sector needed the government support the same way as the governments of India, Iran and Turkey had been facilitating their businessmen to win contracts in Afghanistan.

“I have just come back from Kabul. The security situation there for Pakistanis, including businessmen, is pathetic. Our foreign office should take a serious notice of it,” he said.

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