Pakistan’s new ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan has said that Pakistan and Afghanistan are contemplating to pave the groundwork for start of revision of Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) of 2010 and the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with a view to boost bilateral trade. Pakistan and landlocked Afghanistan had signed a transit trade agreement in 1965 that was revised in 2010, which calls for better facilitation in the movement of goods between the two countries. Afghan and Pakistani sources in Islamabad say revision of the APTTA will be one of the key items on agenda of talks between Adviser to Prime Minister of Pakistan for Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood and Afghan officials in Kabul, expected later this month.Mansoor Khan told Daily Times in an interview on Tuesday that there is a focus of Pakistan on enhancing trade and transit facilities between the two countries. “The bilateral trade which had crossed the three billion US dollars mark a few years ago has unfortunately seen a drop in the last 3-4 years due to multiple factors. However, effort is being made to enhance facilitation for businessmen from both sides to take advantage of complementarities,” he said.Masnoor Khan said a number of business to business events are being planned in the coming weeks and months. “Pakistan is the preferred transit route for Afghanistan. However, the transit trade in recent years has also suffered from some impediments including the piling up of held-up containers during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the relevant departments have worked tirelessly in recent weeks to clear up a large number of these containers and the remaining issues are also being addressed with a view to normalize the transit of Afghan goods to and from Pakistani ports,” he said.Pakistan has opened all key routes with Afghanistan for bilateral and transit trade and also Wagah border crossing with India for Afghan exports to help war-ravaged Afghanistan boost trade. Afghanistan is the only neighbouring country with which Pakistan has opened borders despite COVID-19 not only for trade but for pedestrians, an official said. Pakistan has also allowed Afghan traders to use the Gwadar port, operated by a Chinese company, in Balochistan for imports and exports.Pakistan announced in October last year to open the Gwadar port for the Afghan transit trade as the trade related infrastructure at the port was already to handle bulk cargoes to and from Afghanistan. The first ship carrying containers for Afghan transit trade arrived at the Gwadar port on Jan. 14, 2020.Mansoor Khan said Pakistan’s leadership has given clear direction for facilitative visa arrangements at the Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul and the four Consulates in Afghanistan.“Therefore, Pakistan’s visa facilities in Afghanistan will undergo improvements and strengthening. The situation of air flights is also considerable,” he said.Pakistan has consulates in Nangarhar, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat.“This is going to be a priority as Ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan to work with relevant institutions on both sides to ensure that this engagement and interaction becomes dynamic and productive for the people on both sides,” the envoy said.He said special attention is needed to facilitate avenues for movement of people. In this regard, some positive measures have already been taken by Pakistani authorities recently.The ambassador said at the same time to further facilitate parole to people movement, the Federal Cabinet recently approved a liberal visa policy for Afghan citizens, adding this policy provides issuance of on-sari all medical visas at Torkham, long term multiple visas for business as well as family visits, students and quick visas for those traveling by air.“This visa policy will bring enhanced facilitation for Afghan citizens in getting Pakistani visas as soon as the policy’s implementation starts,” Mansoor Khan said.He said Pakistan has also indicated its willingness to expand opportunities for Afghan students in the field of higher education. A total of 1000 students selected for scholarships in the Universities in Pakistan in medicine, Engineering, IT and such other fields have been provided visas and would be hopefully joining their institutions in Pakistan by the end of this month.“The deep-rooted socio-economic contacts between Pakistan and Afghanistan rooted in common geography, history, culture, religion and values require the two countries to work together to smooth people to people interaction and engagement in a mutually beneficial manner,” the Pakistani ambassador said.He said The Parliaments on both sides are taking a proactive role in this regard.The Speaker of Pakistan National Assembly Asad Qaiser is himself steering a number of committees to address structural impediments and bottlenecks with the involvement of relevant departments. The goal is to fully utilize the trade potential and restore and increase in all the key sectors between the two countries.