ISLAMABAD (News21USA) – The Taliban’s acting commerce minister said he had asked Pakistan to help return assets of expelled Afghans and discussed ways to overcome Afghanistan’s stalled banking sector transactions during a four-day visit to Islamabad this week.
The arrival of interim minister Nooruddin Azizi in the Pakistani capital marked the first public visit by a senior Taliban official since Pakistan announced its policy of deporting thousands of undocumented Afghans and other foreign nationals after November 1.
It comes just a week after Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister said his expulsion plan was a response to the Taliban-led administration’s unwillingness to act against militants using Afghanistan to carry out attacks in Pakistan.
The Taliban have said security issues are an internal matter for Islamabad and have called on Pakistan to stop the deportations.
Azizi said in an interview with News21USA on Thursday evening that the negotiations had focused mainly on trade issues and had been “amicable”. He said Pakistani officials had raised counterterrorism issues and had reiterated the Taliban’s policy that Afghan soil would not be used against other nations.
Azizi said an important point of the visit had been to raise the issue that Afghan deportees cannot return their property from Pakistan. He said the charge d’affaires at the Afghan embassy in Islamabad and Pakistan’s foreign ministry would work on a “detailed roadmap” on how the assets could be returned, but said it would take time.
“This is not a question of 10 or 100 people, it is a question of 1.7 million people,” Azizi said.
Afghan citizens returning to Afghanistan have said there are restrictions on the transfer of cash and property from Pakistan, where many had built businesses and homes for decades. More than 350,000 Afghans have returned, many of them in temporary shelters near the border.
“Winter is approaching and… the immigrants are having a lot of problems, their medicines and health problems, their food… we have a lot of problems ahead of us and this is a very big challenge for the Islamic Emirate,” Azizi said, referring al The Taliban’s name for their government.
Azizi participated in a meeting on Wednesday between Pakistan and Uzbekistan, who agreed to boost trade, including “improving and expanding the banking system.”
Afghanistan’s banking sector has been severely hampered since the Taliban took power in 2021, as foreign banks limited transactions due to concerns over non-compliance with anti-money laundering rules and international sanctions against some leaders Taliban.
Azizi said officials from Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s trade ministries had agreed to work on draft proposals within a month on how they could restore banking transactions for traders.
He hopes that Pakistani banks that already have branches in Afghanistan will be able to restart transactions between the two countries.
He added that he would prefer Afghan banks to use their previous banking channels such as SWIFT, but that they were considering using the Chinese currency to settle international payments between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We have to find another solution, we are in need… (China) is a huge economic power in the world at the moment, its currency has good stability… we are thinking about it, we have not made a decision on it,” he said.
Pakistan’s commerce minister and a spokesperson for the commerce ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Copyright 2023 Thomson News21USA.