INTERNATIONAL DESK: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday his government will allow the transportation of 50,000 tonnes of wheat offered by India to Afghanistan as soon as modalities are finalised by Islamabad and New Delhi.
Khan made the announcement while approving a humanitarian assistance package for Afghanistan.
He visited the new Afghanistan Inter-Ministerial Coordination Cell (AICC) in Islamabad and chaired the first apex committee meeting of the cell. The meeting was also attended by foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and National Security Adviser Moeed Yousaf.
Khan “announced Pakistan’s decision to allow the 50,000 MT of wheat India has offered to provide Afghanistan as humanitarian assistance to go through Pakistan as soon as modalities are finalized with the Indian side”, according to an official statement issued after the meeting.
“Pakistan will also facilitate the return of Afghan patients who had gone to India for medical treatment and are stuck there, the Prime Minister announced,” the statement added.
Hundreds of Afghan nationals, including patients seeking medical treatment and their relatives or attendants, have been stuck in India for months following the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in mid-August.
In recent weeks, some of them made their way back to Afghanistan via Iran on a handful of specially arranged flights. However, the fare for this route was $850 and out of the reach of many of the stranded Afghans.
India offered to supply the 50,000 tonnes of wheat as humanitarian aid via the Wagah land border crossing with Pakistan several weeks ago. However, Pakistan did not respond positively to the move, Indian officials have said.
Even a Taliban delegation that recently visited Islamabad had raised the issue of allowing the shipment of the wheat with the top Pakistani leadership.
During the meeting in Islamabad, Khan instructed all Pakistani ministries to “facilitate Afghans to the maximum”. He ordered the immediate shipment of in-kind humanitarian assistance worth Pakistani ₹5 billion, including 50,000 tonnes of wheat, emergency medical supplies, winter shelters and other items. He also approved in-principle tariff and sales tax reduction on key Afghan exports to Pakistan.
Khan also ordered authorities to continue providing free Covid-19 vaccination for all Afghans entering Pakistan from land borders. Pakistan started free vaccination of Afghans on November 13.
NSA Moeed Yusuf, who is also convener of the cell, made a presentation on the current economic situation in Afghanistan and the progress made by the cell in coordinating Pakistani efforts for humanitarian assistance and border facilitation for Afghans.
Khan instructed Yusuf to visit Afghanistan to “hold delegation level talks and agree on specific areas where immediate capacity building support shall be provided to Afghans”, the statement said. (Hindustan Times)