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MTN to quit Afghanistan, along with other Middle Eastern countries

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(Last Updated On: August 6, 2020)

MTN Group will exit its operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan to become an Africa-only-focused telecommunications operator.

The group said in a statement on Thursday that “MTN has resolved to simplify its portfolio and focus on its pan-African strategy and will, therefore, be exiting its Middle Eastern assets in an orderly manner over the medium term.” 

The group is already in “advanced discussions” to sell its 75 percent stake in its Syrian subsidiary, CEO Rob Shuter said in a call with journalists. It is negotiating with TeleInvest, the 25% owner of the Syrian business, about the sale.

Shuter said the initial focus will be on exiting its operations in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. However, it also plans to divest of its 49 percent of its stake in MTN Irancell in time.

News of the Middle East and Afghanistan exit comes after a lawsuit was filed in the US in April this year that claimed MTN and several other Western businesses aided terrorist organizations in activities carried out against the United States in the region.

Filed on behalf of American service members, civilians, and their families, who were killed or wounded in Afghanistan, the complaint alleged that MTN paid over $100 million to al-Qaeda and the Taliban so its towers would not be destroyed.

The lawsuit also claimed that MTN would switch off these towers at night, and in doing so, hampered US intelligence operations.

Mybroadband.co.za reported that MTN previously filed a motion to dismiss the original lawsuit, because it said the court lacks jurisdiction over MTN, which does not operate in the United States, and because the complaint does not allege any conduct by MTN that would have violated the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Following an amendment of the complaint by the plaintiffs in June this year, the operator now anticipates filing another motion to dismiss on largely the same grounds.

“MTN remains of the view that it conducts its business in a responsible and compliant manner in all its territories and will defend its position where necessary,” the operator said.

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Pakistan to set up markets along Afghanistan-Pakistan border

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(Last Updated On: September 18, 2020)

Pakistan has decided to establish 18 markets along the Pakistan-Iran and Pakistan-Afghanistan borders, Pakistan government said.

Pakistan’s government would establish the markets aimed at boosting trade with the two countries and preventing the menace of smuggling.

The decision was made during a high-level meeting chaired by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday, Khan’s office said in a statement.

“The meeting was told that twelve border markets will be established on the Pak-Afghan border while six border markets will be established on the Pak-Iran border,” the statement read.

“The Prime Minister has approved the establishment of two border market in Balochistan Province and one border market in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as a pilot project which will be completed and activated by February.”

Imran Khan’s Office noted that the decision to take more effective measures regarding the prevention of smuggling through borders

Talking about the establishment of border markets, the Prime Minister said that the establishment of markets where the population on border areas, especially youth, will get better business and trade opportunities, will come after fencing on the borders, the statement added.

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Kabul, Tehran review cooperation, agree to draw up new strategy

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(Last Updated On: September 16, 2020)

Iran and Afghanistan have agreed to draw up a comprehensive strategic economic document on bilateral cooperation, the head of Iran’s Customs Administration (IRICA) said.

According to Mehdi Mirashrafi, IRICA chief, “facilitating trade, exchanging customs information, solving border problems and developing transit are on the agenda of Iran and Afghanistan.” 

Speaking to journalists after a video conference with Afghan officials, Mirashrafi said: “The two sides decided to prepare a comprehensive strategic economic document, considering the determinations of the two countries for strategic cooperation.”

Tehran Times reported that on the activation of the Iran-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Tripartite Transit Corridor and the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Iran (KTAI) Quadripartite Corridor, Mirashrafi said: “This trend shows the serious determination of the Iranian Customs to facilitate transit through Afghanistan and connect Central Asian countries to international waters through the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.”

He also said Chabahar Port was one of the major issues discussed in the meeting.

“The port of Chabahar is an important and vital port for Afghanistan in the field of transit of goods through Iran, and accordingly, the Afghan side has demanded reducing visa fees and transit fees and reconsidering the penalties for customs violations in the transit route through Iran.”

The Chabahar seaport has been a vital development in Afghanistan’s efforts to increase connectivity with the region for trade purposes. 

The port is partly intended to provide an alternative for trade between India and Afghanistan as it is 800 kilometers closer to the border of Afghanistan than Pakistan’s Karachi port.

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Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan drop by 43.6% in July

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(Last Updated On: September 14, 2020)

Pakistan’s exports of goods and services to Afghanistan dropped by 43.61 percent in July against the same period last year, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reported. 

According to Pakistan’s The Nation, exports totaled $61.25 million this July against exports to the value of $108.64 last year. 

Imported products from Afghanistan also dropped by 56.7 percent from $9.7 million last July to $4.2 million this year. 

SBP also reported an overall decline in exports to other countries in the same period. In July exports dropped by 14.57 percent from $2.2 billion to $1.89 billion. 

Much of this could be attributed to the closure of all Pakistan’s borders in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Only in June did Pakistan start opening borders again with Afghanistan. 

Three key trade routes — Chaman, Torkham, and Ghulam Khan border crossings opened but had to deal with major backlogs. 

Pakistan and Afghanistan share 18 crossing points. The most commonly used ones are Torkham and Chaman.

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