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Islamabad not opposed to Kabul’s SAFTA membership

Pajhwok Afghan News, Kabul

Islamabad not opposed to Kabul’s SAFTA membership

By Pakhtun Sahar and Zainab Mohammadi

3 August 2006

ISLAMABAD/KABUL, Aug 2 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Pakistan on Wednesday rejected the notion as baseless that it was opposed to Afghanistan’s entry into the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).

Speaking to Pajhwok Afghan News, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said Islamabad would welcome Kabul’s entry into SAFTA, the proposed free trade agreement between members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

Afghanistan was accepted as the eighth member of the seven-member SAARC during its meeting in Dhaka. A report in a widely-circulated Pakistani daily, quoting well-placed sources, said Pakistan would oppose Afghanistan’s entry into SAFTA.

However, Ms Aslam said Pakistan would support each and every step which is in the interest of the neighbouring country. She said such reports were aimed at fomenting relations between the two countries. "We supported Afghanistan to get SAARC membership last year and we will do so in future," said Ms Aslam.

Commenting on the issue, chief of the trade department of the Ministry of Commerce Muhammad Azim Wardak said only Bangladesh was opposed to Afghanistan’s membership in SAARC last year.

He said President Hamid Karzai would sign the SAFTA agreement in February next year. "If Afghanistan gets SAFTA membership, it will become entitled to benefits in terms of custom revenues and taxes and will help to improve commercial ties with the member states," said Wardak.