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Pakistan eyes major share in multi-billion dollar Afghan rebuild plans

   ISLAMABAD, Jan 4 (Internews): Pakistan is eyeing to tap a major share in
 the reconstruction of Afghanistan, hoping to boost trade and industry in
 the years to come.
 Official sources said here Friday a top inter-ministerial group has been
 constituted to oversee affairs, while private sector business concerns
 are being asked to come up with ideas and plans, and proposals are under
 consideration to allow more flexible transit facilities for goods needed
 for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
 "As a first formal step in this connection, we are convening a
 conference titled 'Prospects for Pakistan's Trade and Commerce in the
 Reconstruction and Development of Afghanistan' on Monday," an official
 of the Ministry of Commerce said.
 At the meet, senior officials of the United Nations Development
 Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank would also present ideas for
 enhancing trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.
 According to UNDP estimates, Afghan reconstruction would cost between
 $6b and $9b during first five years. The cost could go up as high as
 $25b over the next 10 years if the international interest remains
 A formal meeting of donors to assess the needs and availability of
 resources is due to take place in Tokyo, Japan, later this month. All
 the multilateral donors, representatives of the developed world and
 other stakeholders in the region, including Pakistan, Iran and China,
 will attend.
 The establishment of an interim government led by Hamid Karzai, a
 royalist Pashtun leader, and the commitment shown by the world to help
 poor Afghans out of the years of civil war and poverty, have brightened
 possibilities of a mega plan.
 Initial estimates of what it will cost to begin the reconstruction of
 Afghanistan over the next two and a half years range from $3b, according
 to an early version of a joint United Nations Development
 Programme-World Bank-Asian Development Bank preliminary needs
 According to the latest report of the Bank, the quick-impact programmes
 to meet short-term priority needs for Afghanistan could enable the
 enrolment of 1.5m children in primary school in the next two years.
 Pakistan reckons that it has a major role in the future of Afghanistan.
 Being a generous host of 3m Afghan refugees since 1979, it could help in
 the reconstruction efforts, say officials here.
 Though the strong presence of the Northern Alliance in Kabul had raised
 some concerns for Islamabad, its relations with all other Afghan groups,
 including Uzbek warlord Dostum, Hazara leader Ismail Khan and the
 majority Pashtun population still provide Islamabad powerful friends in
 Then the fact that the landlocked Afghanistan is dependent on transit
 trade route from Pakistan guarantees that the Afghans would continue to
 rely on Pakistan for their business and trade with the outside world.
 The Ministry of Commerce is also reviewing a proposal to allow trade of
 all those items on zero-rated tax that are needed for reconstruction
 efforts. The government has recently also offered $100m to Afghanistan,
 as seed money for the reconstruction. -Internews


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