Pakistan discussing expansion of CPEC to Afghanistan: envoy

Published September 28, 2021
Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, speaks during an interview with Reuters in this screen grab taken from a video. — Reuters
Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, speaks during an interview with Reuters in this screen grab taken from a video. — Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has discussed the Taliban-led Afghanistan joining the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project, the Pakistan’s ambassador to the country said on Monday.

“Regional connectivity is an important element of our discussion with Afghan leadership and our way forward for our economic interaction with Afghanistan,” said Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s envoy to Kabul, in an interview with Reuters.

“This important project — China Pakistan Economic Corridor — provides good opportunities, good potential for providing infrastructure and energy connectivity between Afghanistan and Pakistan ... (and) also connecting South Asia to the Central Asian region.”

Says Pakistan is also trying to get curbs lifted on Afghan banking system

Khan said that discussions had been held with the Taliban-led administration on this and other ways to develop the country’s economy.

“I think there has been deep interest in terms of developing economic connectivity of Afghanistan with Pakistan through CPEC and with other neighbouring countries including Iran, China, Central Asian countries.”

In recent days representatives from Pakistan, China and Russia have held meetings with Taliban officials. Khan said security and economic development were the two main topics under discussion and that these countries expected to continue to consult as a group and meet the Taliban going forward.

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on Aug 15, the country has been plunged into economic crisis as the nation’s international assistance has been largely cut off. Billions of dollars in central bank assets held abroad have also been frozen, which has put pressure on the banking system and prevented most transactions involving US dollars, which Khan said was also hampering trade.

The ambassador said that Pakistan was also trying to work with the international community to ease international restrictions on the banking system and several executives from Pakistani financial institutions with a presence in Afghanistan had visited Kabul in recent days to see if the situation could be improved should international limits end.

The United States and other Western nations are reluctant to provide the Taliban with funds until the Islamist group provides assurances that it will uphold human rights, and in particular the rights of women.

Pakistan has not yet formally recognised the Taliban-led administration and Khan said “the issues of formal recognition will come later as Pakistan is part of the international community”.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2021

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