Taliban commerce minister raises refugee issue during Pakistan visit

Pakistani flag

(REUTERS) The Taliban’s acting commerce minister met Pakistan’s foreign minister in Islamabad this week, an Afghan embassy statement said on Tuesday, discussing trade and how the thousands of Afghan citizens Pakistan is expelling could take cash and other assets back to their homeland, Reuters reported.

The visit takes place less than a week after Pakistan said that its move to expel hundreds of thousands of undocumented Afghans was a response to the unwillingness of the Taliban-led administration to act against militants using Afghanistan to carry out attacks in Pakistan.

Taliban officials say militancy is an internal matter for Pakistan and have called on Islamabad to halt its deportation of Afghan citizens.

“Bilateral trade, especially the stranded goods of (Afghan) traders in Karachi port, smooth transfer of (Afghan) refugees’ properties to (Afghanistan) and related issues were discussed,” Afghanistan’s embassy in Islamabad said in a statement, on acting commerce minister Haji Nooruddin Azizi’s meeting with Pakistan’s caretaker foreign minister Jalil Abbas Jilani.

Afghan citizens returning to Afghanistan have said there are restrictions on the transfer of cash and property to Afghanistan from Pakistan, where many had built businesses and homes for decades.

Pakistan’s foreign office said Jilani conveyed the message that: “full potential for regional trade and connectivity can be harnessed with collective action against terrorism.”

Last month, Pakistan set a Nov. 1 start date for the expulsion of all undocumented immigrants, including hundreds of thousands of Afghans. It cited security reasons, brushing off calls to reconsider from the United Nations, rights groups and Western embassies.

Humanitarian organisations have raised alarm at the dire conditions many Afghans who have recently returned are facing with few resources as the cold winter season begins and say many are staying in crowded shelters near the border operated by NGOs and Taliban authorities.

Pakistan’s foreign office said the Taliban acting commerce minister would also undertake a trilateral meeting with representatives from Pakistan and Uzbekistan on Tuesday.

The agenda for the trilateral meeting was not clear, but the three countries have been working on plans for trade transit and railway connections between South and Central Asia that would cross through Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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