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USAID facilitates trade between Pakistan and Uzbekistan via Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: May 7, 2021)

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with TCS Logistics in Pakistan, has successfully carried out a trial shipment of herbal medicines to Uzbekistan, from Karachi in Pakistan, via Afghanistan.

The shipment left Karachi on April 29 and arrived in Tashkent on Tuesday, the US Embassy in Uzbekistan said in a statement.

The pilot shipment was inline with the Transports Internationaux Routiers (TIR) Convention, a customs agreement that facilitates the international transport of goods.

The pilot is the first in a series of five planned trial runs to the countries of Central Asia through Afghanistan and China aimed at testing the viability of various routes for international transit to Central Asia and beyond under the TIR Convention.

The successful execution of the first pilot to Tashkent will build confidence among traders and transport operators from both sides to adopt TIR for cross border trade and transit and boost regional trade integration and connectivity, the statement read.

Officials at the Afghan Ministry of Industry and Trade said Thursday that for the first time, a commercial shipment of Pakistani health products arrived in Uzbekistan from Afghanistan in accordance with the TIR.

According to officials this is also in line with the Afghan government’s attempts to improve relations with neighboring countries.

Members of Afghanistan’s private sector have welcomed the move, calling for stronger trade ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

They express the hope that they will be able to transport their commercial goods to Central Asia through the TIR system.

Technical and financial support for the initiative has been provided by USAID through its Pakistan Regional Economic Integration activity in support of its ongoing assistance to Pakistan for streamlining TIR operations to enhance trade connectivity.

Additional support in destination countries for the execution of these pilots is being provided by the Competitiveness, Trade, and Jobs, another USAID-funded activity in Central Asia.

TCS Logistics is a leading Pakistani company providing courier, logistics and e-commerce services to the corporate sector, SMEs, and individual households both nationally and internationally.

It is the only logistics operator to date that has been licensed to carry out TIR operations by the Pakistan National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce under the authorization of the International Road Transport Union.

The TIR Convention was signed in 1975 under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Pakistan acceded to the TIR Convention on July 24, 2015 and was declared as a ‘TIR operational country’ by the IRU on April 19, 2018. TIR is widely used for international transit of goods in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia and is being rapidly adopted in Afghanistan and Central Asian countries which are all contracting parties to the Convention, the US Embassy stated.

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Private sector calls for implementation of economic projects

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(Last Updated On: September 17, 2021)

Afghanistan’s private sector on Thursday called on the new government to implement large, regional projects saying this will create job opportunities, which will in turn reduce poverty and increase government revenue.

“There are many opportunities in the country. TAPI, CASA-1000, Railways, Belt and Road, [these] projects should be implemented; it is very important for the country. It is beneficial for Afghanistan. Taliban (Islamic Emirate) should take it seriously,” said Khan Jan Alokozay, a member of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment.

Some members of the country’s craftsmen association said the Islamic Emirate should start with projects that connect Central Asia to South Asia, in order to push Afghanistan’s economy.

“Our country has the capacity to implement large projects between Central Asia and South Asia. We call on Taliban (Islamic Emirate) to address the projects, said Abdul Jabar Safi, head of the association.

The Islamic Emirate meanwhile has stated that they are focusing on projects and that work on these will start soon.

Economic analysts, on the other hand, have stated that work on such projects should be accelerated.

“Attention should be paid to these projects, in order to move to a stable economy. Afghanistan needs such projects now,” said Abdul Wasi, an economic analyst.

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Central bank seizes over $12 million from former govt officials

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(Last Updated On: September 16, 2021)

Afghanistan’s central bank said it had seized nearly $12.4 million in cash and gold from former high-ranking government officials, including former vice president Amrullah Saleh.

In a statement, the central bank said the money and gold had been kept in the houses of officials, although it did not yet know for what purpose.

Saleh’s whereabouts meanwhile are unknown.

In a separate statement, the bank urged Afghans to use the country’s local Afghani currency.

This comes amid growing concerns that the country’s banks and firms are running short of money, especially dollars, which are widely used.

In a sign that the Islamic Emirate are looking to recoup assets belonging to former government officials, the central bank issued a circular to local banks last week asking them to freeze the accounts of politically exposed individuals linked to the previous government.

But on Wednesday, reports emerged that Afghanistan’s banks are running out of dollars, and may have to close their doors to customers unless the government releases funds soon.

Three people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters that the cash squeeze threatens to upend the country’s already battered economy, largely dependent on hundreds of millions of dollars shipped by the United States to the central bank in Kabul that make their way to Afghans through banks.

Although the cash crunch has lasted weeks, the country’s banks have in recent days repeatedly underlined their concerns to the new government and central bank, two of the people said.

Banks have already pared back services and imposed weekly $200 payout limits, with long queues outside branches as people try to get hold of dollars.

But in a statement on its website on Wednesday, the central bank’s acting governor said banks were stable.

“The banks are completely secure,” he said, adding that commercial banks usually kept 10% of their capital as cash and that those in Afghanistan, on average, held 50% as cash.

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Efforts underway to reopen Torkham and Spin Boldak border crossings

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(Last Updated On: September 15, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister Mawlavi Amir Khan Mottaqi met with Pakistani Ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Ahmad Khan on Tuesday to discuss challenges at the country’s border crossings.

Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Islamic Emirate’s political office in Doha, said the meeting focused on the people’s challenges at the Torkham and Spin Boldak crossings.

According to Shaheen, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan has assured the Islamic Emirate that the crossings will soon be reopened to Afghans and all challenges will be resolved.

Pakistan closed the Torkham crossing to Afghan travelers, and traffic continued intermittently through Spin Boldak after the Islamic Emirate’s takeover of Afghanistan last month.

Thousands of Afghans are however currently waiting to cross into Pakistan at these crossings.

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