Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) has stated that bringing relaxation in visa policy will boost bilateral trade agreements between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Shahid Hussain, senior vice president of the SCCI in a statement expressed that there is an urgent need to bring improvement in visa issuance to Afghan traders and businessmen, and remove the factors affecting the process. Ensuring the issuance of visas to the citizens and trade communities of both countries should be prioritized in order to boost trade and exchange of goods between the two countries, he added.
According to a recent survey, the trade volume between Pakistan and Afghanistan has dropped from $2.5 billion in 2012 to $6 million in 2022. This is a matter of grave concern for both nations heavily relying on bilateral trade and economic engagements now more than before.
It is alleged that $1000 is being charged illegally on the issuance of visas to Afghan traders, citing that some local and foreign elements and factors are allegedly involved in this illegal practice, Mr. Shahid elaborated.
This statement came as Afghan citizens and traders pay a considerable amount of money in the form of bribes and commissions to get their visas issued. Meanwhile, Afghan nationals currently residing in Pakistan face major challenges in extending their stay visas. They have even received warnings two times from the Pakistani interior ministry to extend their residential permits and other legal documents before the end of the year, otherwise, they will face heavy penalties or even imprisonment.
Considering the dire economic situation in war-ravaged Afghanistan and the strict visa policies put in place by the government of Pakistan, the chances of growing socio-cultural and trade engagements between the two neighboring counties seem shallow at this very stage in time.