Pakistan, Tajikistan vow to enhance co-operation

By Javed Mahmood

Pakistani and Tajik officials confer in Islamabad during the June 15-16 5th session of the Pakistan-Tajikistan Joint Commission on Trade, Economic and Scientific-Technical Co-operation. [Javed Mahmood]

Pakistani and Tajik officials confer in Islamabad during the June 15-16 5th session of the Pakistan-Tajikistan Joint Commission on Trade, Economic and Scientific-Technical Co-operation. [Javed Mahmood]

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan and Tajikistan are taking vital steps to enhance business and trade and combat cross-border crimes such as drugs and narcotics trafficking, officials said.

During the 5th session of the Pakistan–Tajikistan Joint Commission on Trade, Economic and Scientific-Technical Co-operation, held June 15-16 in Islamabad, the two sides agreed on a number of decisions aimed at strengthening their ties.

The major agreements include enhanced business partnerships, banking oversight, energy, transportation, agriculture, and economic and diplomatic relations, as well as measures to eliminate the menace of drug trafficking.

Pakistani Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif and Tajik Energy and Water Resources Minister Usmonali Usmonzoda chaired the conference.

Officials expect to hold the commission's next session in October, during which they will come up with specific measures to prevent trafficking, Saeed Javed, a spokesman for the Pakistani Finance Ministry, told Central Asia Online.

“It is imperative that Pakistan and Tajikistan undertake steps to eliminate issues such as cross-border movements of religious radical elements, human traffickers, narcotics dealers and their facilitators,” Majyd Aziz, former president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Central Asia Online.

Pakistan must impress upon its neighbours the importance of dealing strongly with terrorists and traffickers, he said, adding that the region needs to establish a common security system to confront those concerns.

Building strong relationships between neighbours and among regional partners will help ensure security and promote economic prosperity for all, he said.

Building allies, trade partners

Pakistan has moved in the right direction by accepting the advantages of friendship with Central Asian countries, particularly Tajikistan, Majyd said.

Trade between Pakistan and Central Asian countries is gradually increasing and it is crucial to have a well-defined and -focused relationship structure, he added.

Pakistan cannot afford to lose potential allies who are willing to step up trade and to support Pakistan diplomatically, he said.

"Pakistan and Tajikistan must tighten security to combat drug and narcotics trafficking," Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah of Peshawar, a former security secretary for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), told Central Asia Online. "Doing so will discourage terrorism and extremism."

The neighbours should explore avenues of co-operation to strengthen security and to enhance cultural and economic co-operation, he said.

One example would be purchasing electricity and natural gas from Tajikistan, he said, noting Pakistan's chronic power shortages.

Protocol of the session

Decisions reached during the June 15-16 Islamabad conference include the following:

-- An agreement to convene their Joint Business Council in Dushanbe this October;

-- An agreement to sign a memorandum of understanding between the State Bank of Pakistan and National Bank of Tajikistan on supervisory co-operation;

-- Agreement by Pakistan to consider Tajikistan's request for accession to the Quadrilateral Agreement for Traffic-in-Transit (three of the pact's countries are Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan);

-- Agreement to initiate construction on the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000) as soon as possible.

Both sides noted their interest in Tajikistan exporting 1,000MW of power to Pakistan outside CASA-1000.

The countries agreed as well to form joint ventures to explore for oil and gas in Tajikistan and to co-operate in agricultural pursuits like cotton and wool processing.

They also agreed to appoint officials to serve as focal points in the joint fight against drug trafficking.

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