The sixth meeting of Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Committee (PAJC) was held at Islamabad from March 28-29, 2017. The meeting was part of Beyond Boundaries II, a track I.5/II dialogue series undertaken by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in partnership with the Afghan counterpart Women Peace and Security Organization (WPSO), to foster better understanding and cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The emphasis was placed on people to people contacts and removing hardships of common people visiting the two countries. The meeting also recognized the need to develop a joint narrative, emphasizing shared common challenges and solutions.
The following points of convergence emerged during the meeting:
- The group welcomed the extension of the refugees stay in Pakistan until December 31, 2017.
- The group expressed appreciation on the recent amendments in the Pakistani visa regime for Afghan nationals. The group called upon the government of Afghanistan to introduce similar changes in the existing visa regime for Pakistani nationals.
The Security Situation
- The group condemned the repeated terrorist attacks in both countries resulting in massive human and material losses.
- The group welcomed the re-opening of the Pak-Afghan border and expressed the hope that in the future no such actions would be taken in view of the human hardship and difficulties for trade on both sides.
- The group underscored that insurgency and terrorism are a common challenge and have to be dealt with jointly by both governments.
Bilateral Trade Relations
- The group emphasized the desirability to ensure smooth and friction-free trade and transit between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The group also urged both governments to create an enabling environment.
- The group called upon both governments to expedite meetings of the Joint Economic Commission (JEC) and the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA).
- As agreed between the two governments at the sixth APTTCA meeting, the group emphasized the need to move forward on the revised draft of the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) for finalization.
- The group urged both countries to start talks on the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) which had been under discussion for some time.
- The group called upon the two governments to finalize the Bilateral Transport Agreement (BTA), allowing Pakistani vehicles to carry merchandize to destinations in Afghanistan and vice versa, specifically for bilateral trade.
- The group recommended both governments to hold ministerial meetings on bilateral and transit trade matters.
Pakistani and Afghan Prisoners
- The group urged both governments to provide consular access and ensure fair and humane treatment to prisoners and detainees of both countries as per the international human rights standards.
- The group appreciated that the Afghan side had been able to make use of the scholarships offered by Pakistan in 2016.
- The group expressed the hope that the educational scholarships Pakistan announced in 2017 would be availed expeditiously and recommended to expand the scholarships to vocational trainings as well.
- The group urged the governments and civil society of both countries to encourage hosting male and female students for exchange programs and home stays, particularly between the age groups of 15 to 19.
- The group urged additional scholarships for Afghan students, reserving a quota of 30% for female applicants.
- The group suggested exchange visits of national cricket teams, under 19 cricket teams, football teams, taekwondo and other sports teams.
- The group urged Pakistan and Afghanistan to explore cooperation opportunities for sports exchange programs, especially for girls. In this context, the educational institutions on both sides may be approached.
- The group appreciated the rich cultural heritage and shared affinities between the two countries and called upon the media, civil society and government to promote cultural and social exchanges between the two peoples.
- The group expressed the resolve to persuade media houses to promote joint media and cultural programs.