A high level eighteen member Pakistan delegation arrived in Kabul for the first meeting of Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Committee (PAJC) as part of CRSS- SaferWorld- OESP Pak-Afghan track 1.5/II project Beyond Boundaries Phase III. The meeting was held in Kabul from December 14 – 17, 2017.
The Pakistani delegation was headed by Mr. Rana Afzal Khan, Member of National Assembly – PML-N, and Parliamentary Secretary Finance, other delegates including parliamentarians, retired civil and military bureaucrats, chamber representative, and senior media persons. The sixteen Afghan PAJC delegation was headed by Mr. Abdul Qader Zazai, Member and Secretary of Parliament, other members including parliamentarians, former governors, senior media persons, and chamber representatives.
Both the PAJC groups held a one day workshop/ dialogue on 15 November, at Serena hotel, Kabul. During the one day workshop/ dialogue the PAJC held detailed deliberations on the core issues affecting Pak-Afghan bilateral relations and devised ways and means to work together as civil society groups delinking themselves from the official positions of the two governments and the political deadlock between the two neighboring countries, but at the same time acting as a track II mechanism to lobby and influence the two governments for improvement in the bilateral relations.
After the workshop, the PAJC groups adopted a joint declaration of policy recommendations.
JOINT DECLARATION OF POICY RECOMMENDATION
At the first meeting of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Committee (PAJC) under the aegies of CRSS-OESP-led project Beyond Boundaries phase III, was held at Kabul on 15 December 2017.
The PAJC, undertook a comprehensive review of the previous rounds of Beyond Boundaries, in the light of improved political atmosphere between the two countries, they welcomed the recent proposals shared between Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially the start of the process of various working groups to address issues besting their bilateral relations. PAJC members welcomed the recent exchange of visits between Kabul and Islamabad, particularly consultations between Directors General Military Operations (DGMOs). They hoped the current relative restrain on both sides augurs well for bilateral relations. They requested both governments to continue the course of engagement.
In addition, the PAJC held detailed discussions on the current status of bilateral relations, including issues of peace and security, refugees, media cooperation, movement of goods and people across the two countries, facilitation of trade, visa restrictions and, educational scholarships in particular.
The PAJC mutually agreed to build the monitoring mechanism by setting up set up a PAJC Monitoring Group to follow, and track implementation of policy recommendations
The PAJC strongly called upon on both governments:
a) To convene the impending meeting of the Afghan Pakistan Transit Trade Coordinating Authority (APTTCA) as soon as possible to address pending transit trade issues.
b) To immediately resume bilateral trade talks, including recently imposed regulatory taxes on Afghan exports to Pakistan.
c) To expedite and facilitate implementation of the Scholarship Programmes for Afghan students.
d) To facilitate completion of Pakistan funded projects in Afghanistan and provide all necessary support, including timely tax waivers by the Afghan government for equipment being imported for these projects.
e) Encourage establishment of almunis of Afghan students graduated from Pakistani universities and are now busy in various fields of life in Afghanistan.
f) To revisit the visa regime and to facilitate and improve visa-related issues from application submission to the issuance of the visa itself. Introduce special visa regime for influencers such as businessmen, parliamentarians, media representatives, patients and attendants.
In order to improve bilateral relations it was further recommended that:
i) Youth exchange programmes – encouraging youth from both countries to be guests with Pakistani and Afghan families, as the case may be
ii) Journalists’ short exchange programmes be organized for better understanding of each other’s perspective
iii) Cultural programmes may be organised to facilitate participation of prominent singers like Rahim Shah, Zeb Bangash, Hadiqa Kayani, Farishta, Samaa, Wali Fateh Ali Khan, Ariana Saeed etc. Live Concert coverage in partnership with PTV and Tolo may also be arranged
iv) Sindh Government various initiatives which were approved by the Chief Minister of Sindh as a result of the Beyond Boundaries phase II Karachi visit January, 2017, may also be followed up with the Sindh government and Afghan government.
v) Forum for International Relations Development, a UK based conflict resolution think tank, will offer scholarships for tuition fees only to 5 Pakistani and 5 Afghan students for undergraduate and post graduate British qualifications through School of Economics and Law (SOEL), UK. The CRSS and OESP will recommend and lead the process, while the final selection will be done by SOEL, UK. The applicants in both countries must meet the UK visa and Immigration requirement.
As part of strategic sideline meetings with the Government of Afghanistan, on Saturday, 16 December, The Pakistan PAJC held a meeting with Mr. Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, the Speaker of Wolesi Jirga – the lower house of Afghan parliament. Later that day, the Pak and Afghan PAJC members also held a meeting the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, at his office.
© Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS).