Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. -File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has exempted Afghan businessmen from reporting to police and directed the Federal Board of Revenue to release 3,000 withheld containers within 10 days.

At a meeting with a delegation of the Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Prime Minister’s House here on Tuesday, he also asked the FBR to devise a mechanism to ensure prompt clearance of containers so that genuine trade was not affected.

A source privy to the meeting told Dawn that the prime minister had expressed concern over detention of Afghan containers. The containers were withheld at Karachi ports because legal requirements under the revised Afghan transit trade agreement had not been met.

According to the source, the FBR has sent a draft notification to the law division about necessary changes in the agreement relating to mandatory insurance cover for Afghan transit goods. The notification would be issued for the release of containers after the law division approved amendments, the source added.

Mr Ashraf directed the ministry of interior to exempt Afghan businessmen visiting Pakistan on valid visas from police inquiry.

He also directed the FBR to keep the customs posts at the Afghan border open seven days a week and ensure that the posts were fully functional.

Pakistan’s export to Afghanistan increased to $2.16 billion in 2011-12 from $1.57bn in 2009-10.

The prime minister recently approved a proposal of the commerce ministry to set up the Land Port Authority of Pakistan which will open land ports with neighbouring countries at all exit and entry points for movement of goods and people through land routes. The proposed ports will have all facilities under one roof.

A statement issued after the meeting said Mr Ashraf praised the Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry for bringing businessmen of the two countries closer and using its good offices for resolving the issues for better trade relations.

He urged businesspersons of the two countries to discourage smuggling.

Mr Ashraf appreciated a proposal for setting up a special economic zone on Pakistan’s side of the border for manufacturing goods for export to Afghanistan.

He urged the private sector of both countries to prepare a proposal for establishing a dry port and starting a train service for transportation of goods.

President of the Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry Zubair Motiwala briefed the prime minister on the issues and problems being faced by businesspersons of the two countries.

He said Turkey had shown interest in engaging itself with the Chamber for a tri-lateral arrangement. Tajikistan was interested in a similar arrangement, he added.