Pakistan to ease Afghan border controls after talks with Taliban

Measures announced after visit to Kabul by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi

Pakistan is determined to help Afghanistan avoid a collapse of its economy and has agreed measures to ease some border restrictions and facilitate trade.

The easing of restrictions include on-arrival visas for Afghan business travellers, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said after talks in Kabul with the country's Taliban leaders.

Mr Qureshi visited the Afghan capital on Thursday for the first time since the Taliban seized power in August, following weeks of tension over transport links between the neighbouring countries.

"We have taken steps that will benefit Afghanistan financially," he said.

The Chaman border crossing, one of the main trade transit points between Afghanistan and Pakistan, has been closed for more than two weeks, causing severe problems for truckers and exporters. Farmers near the southern city of Kandahar have been forced to leave pomegranates and other export produce to rot because lorries cannot get through to their markets across the border.

Mr Qureshi said imports of fresh fruit and vegetables from Afghanistan would be allowed duty free, in a move aimed at helping Afghan fruit producers hurt by the border closures.

But there was no agreement to restart flights by Pakistan International Airlines, which suspended operations from Kabul last week after it accused Taliban officials of interference.

The airline has faced local anger after it raised the price of a one-way ticket to as much as $2,500, citing the cost of the premiums it was forced to pay for operating in what insurers consider a war zone.

Mr Qureshi said he met the Taliban's acting prime minister Hasan Akhund and most Cabinet members. His delegation included the head of Pakistan's ISI intelligence service, Faiz Hameed, who had also visited Kabul in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the city.

His visit to Kabul – only the third by a foreign minister since the Taliban took power, after those of Qatar and Uzbekistan – came as the Taliban try to win international backing and financial support for their Islamist regime.

Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi called Mr Qureshi's visit a "very good interaction".

Updated: October 22nd 2021, 3:01 PM