Visa regime relaxed to promote Pak-Afghan trade

Published June 29, 2022
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif presides over a federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday. — PID website
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif presides over a federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday. — PID website

• Cabinet endorses supplementary grants approved earlier by ECC
• Marriyum calls cases against Ishaq Dar fake, part of PTI’s political vendetta

ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday decided to relax the visa policy for bilateral trade with neighbouring Afghanistan, and hoped the decision will help improve economies of the two countries.

The decision was taken in the federal cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

According to the Prime Minister Office, PM Sharif directed the authorities concerned to issue six-month multiple-entry visas to transporters from Afghanistan. He also approved all the proposals put forward by the Afghan Inter-Ministerial Coordination Cell. The cabinet directed the Pakistan embassies abroad to assess Afghan visa applications on the basis of current nationality and passport instead of the country of origin.

Moreover, the cabinet directed that a sub-category under the work visa category be introduced in the online visa system. It was also decided that initially, six-month multiple-entry visas would be issued, and the interior ministry would have the authority to extend the period to one year.

Documents required with the visa application would include the applicant’s photograph, passport, registration as a transport company, and employment letter. The meeting exempted the condition of recommendation letters by the Securities and Exchange Commi­ssion of Pakistan and the Board of Investment for visas of drivers, transporters, helpers, etc.

The federal cabinet noted that these decisions had been taken and amendments made to the visa policy to promote bilateral trade with Afghanistan.

In a post-cabinet meeting press conference, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the visa policy for Afghans was reviewed by the Interior Ministry’s Afghan Inter-Ministerial Cell during an apex committee meeting, which also included representatives of the Foreign Office, Nadra and the Board of Investment.

Flanked by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Kashmir Affairs Qamar Zaman Kaira, Ms Aurang­zeb said under the revised policy, Pakistan’s missions abroad would process the visa applications of Afghans on the basis of their existing passports and nationalities instead of their country of origin.

The cabinet also constituted a committee to ensure the continuity of ease of doing business for traders, she added.

Moreover, the technical supplementary grants approved by the Economic Coordination Committee and endorsed by the cabinet included Rs125.8 million for various requirements of 6 Aviation Squadron, Rs40m for publicity campaigns by the National Command and Operation Centre, Rs1.22 billion for payment admissible to the families of deceased/shuhada under the Prime Minister’s Assistance Package, Rs39.36m for purchase of surveillance cameras with accessories for maintaining law and order situation during the upcoming protest/sit-in by a political party and others.

To a question, the information minister said the issue of pay scales and regularisation of the Associated Press of Pakistanemphasized text employees was old. “This is not only a problem of APP, but also of all corporations, which will be decided in line with the government’s policy,” she maintained.

Responding to a question regarding media reports that self-exiled former finance minister Ishaq Dar was returning to the country, Ms Aurangzeb claimed the court cases against Mr Dar were fake and part of the political vendetta of the previous Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf regime. “The former finance minister has every right to return to the country,” she added.

She stated Mr Dar had rendered great services for Pakistan and nobody could deny his contribution to the development of the country.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2022

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