ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has approved a three-month extension in its decade-old transit trade agreement with landlocked Afghanistan, allowing the two sides to finalize and sign a revised version of the document currently under review.
The February 2010 Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) is due to expire on February 11.
In a meeting Tuesday, the Pakistani Cabinet allowed the temporary extension of the APTTA until Islamabad and Kabul conclude their ongoing discussions on the proposed "amendments, suggestions and additions" in the updated agreement.
The arrangement allows Afghanistan access to Pakistani seaports, as well as land routes, to conduct international trade and export Afghan goods to India, Pakistan's arch-rival. In return, Islamabad gets access through Afghanistan to markets in Central Asian states.
The Pakistani Commerce Ministry informed Cabinet members that more than 832,000 containers of Afghan transit trade, carrying goods worth $33 billion, have passed through Pakistan during the last 10 years.
"It is estimated that 30% of Afghan Transit Trade passes through Pakistan," the ministry noted in is summary.
Top Pakistani and Afghan Commerce Ministry officials have regularly met in recent months to discuss the revised agreement, but differences have apparently prevented them from finalizing the deal.
Kabul has long demanded access for Afghan trucks to transport export-related goods through Pakistani over land routes up to Indian destinations. Afghan officials also want their trucks to be able to load goods Afghanistan wants to import from India.
Pakistan allows Afghan trucks to unload their goods not far from the Indian border and return empty.
Islamabad maintains the APTTA is a bilateral arrangement and is reluctant to provide unhindered two-way access to Afghan trucks, citing security concerns stemming from increased bilateral tensions with New Delhi.
The APTTA was concluded in 2010 after years of effort, with the United States playing the facilitating role at the time, and replaced an outdated agreement dating from 1965.