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Corruption at Afghan customs offices almost zero: official

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(Last Updated On: May 20, 2022)

The level of corruption at Afghanistan’s customs department has been stamped out to almost zero, a senior finance ministry official said this week.

In an interview with Ariana News, Mairaj Mohammad Mairaj, head of Afghanistan Revenue Department, asked international anti-corruption institutions to closely study the process of revenue collection in Afghanistan.

“An Islamic system is now in place in Afghanistan. You can see there is transparency. We can confidently say that the level of corruption is nearing zero,” Mairaj said.

The official questioned the transparency of the $2 billion international humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, saying it has not resolved the issue of high level poverty in the country.

“If they give $500 million to IEA, you will not find any poor person anywhere in Afghanistan,” Mairaj said.

On the 10 percent tax on mobile phone top-ups, Mairaj said this money will go to the national budget, and not into private pockets.

On ushr and zakat, the official said that it is not mandatory for people to pay zakat to the government.

“If one is obliged to pay zakat, he may give it to his relatives, other poor people or the government,” Mairaj said.

He said that millions of dollars of cash that is regularly dispatched to Afghanistan is not intended for IEA, but is spent on UNAMA programs.

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Pakistan to issue six-month multiple entry visas to Afghan truck drivers

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(Last Updated On: June 29, 2022)

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has directed authorities to issue six-month multiple entry visas to truck drivers from Afghanistan, it was reported Wednesday.

Initially, multiple entry visas will be issued for a period of six months, and later it could be extended to period of one year, Pakistan’s The News reported.

Documents required with the visa application will include the applicant’s photograph, passport, registration as a transport company, and employment letter.

The move is aimed at promoting trade with Afghanistan.

Moreover, for the promotion of ease of doing business, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Board of Investment will link the online visa system with online payments.

“We need to remove all hurdles for Afghans in order to help them and to provide them a conducive environment to invest in Pakistan…,” Sharif said, noting that a policy in this regard would be formulated within two weeks.

This comes a day after Pakistan’s PM ordered import of coal from Afghanistan to be paid in rupees.

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IEA calls for release of frozen funds following deadly earthquake

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

Afghanistan’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) has called on international governments to roll back sanctions and lift a freeze on central bank assets following the earthquake that killed more than 1,000 people and left thousands homeless.

The 6.1-magnitude quake that struck the east of the country early on Wednesday destroyed or damaged 10,000 homes and injured about 2,000 people.

“The Islamic Emirate is asking the world to give the Afghans their most basic right, which is their right to life and that is through lifting the sanctions and unfreezing our assets and also giving assistance,” Abdul Qahar Balkhi, foreign affairs ministry spokesman, told Reuters in an interview.

While humanitarian aid continues to flow to Afghanistan, funds needed for longer-term development were halted when the IEA seized control of the country in August 2021 as foreign forces withdrew.

Billions of U.S. dollars in Afghan central bank reserves remain frozen overseas and sanctions hamper the banking sector as the West pushes for concessions on human rights.

Western governments are particularly concerned about the rights of women and girls to work under IEArule.

Asked about the issue, Balkhi said Afghans’ right to life-saving funds should be the priority, adding that the international community handled concerns over human rights differently depending on the country involved.

“Is this rule universal? Because the United States just passed an anti-abortion law,” Balkhi said, referring to the Supreme Court’s overturning on Friday of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that recognised a woman’s right to an abortion.

“Sixteen countries in the world have taken away the rights of religious minorities, especially Muslims … are they also facing sanctions because they are violating rights?,” he asked.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Saturday the U.S. government was working on “complicated questions about the use of these (frozen central bank) funds to ensure they benefit the people of Afghanistan and not the Taliban (IEA).”

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IEA’s supreme leader meets traders and manufacturers in Kandahar

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(Last Updated On: June 21, 2022)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, met with dozens of traders and manufacturers in southern Kandahar province on Monday.

During the meeting, Akhundzada called on the private sector to take effective steps for development and independence of Afghanistan’s economy, state-run news agency Bakhtar reported.

He said that the IEA is committed to resolving problems that traders and manufacturers are facing.

“We welcome the Amir-ul-Mominin’s move. The private sector representatives are now fully assured that IEA supports them and they can invest freely in Afghanistan,” said Abdul Nasir Reshtya, a member of the Chamber of Industries and Mines.

Economic experts believe the smaller the gap between the private sector and the government, the more chance the private sector will have to develop and there will be greater interest in investing in Afghanistan.

“We welcome such meetings. It could encourage the private sector to invest in the country with full security assurance,” said Shabir Ahmad Bashiri, an economic expert.

IEA has held several meetings with members of the private sector in the past 10 months.

Recently, the IEA, under the guidance of acting deputy Prime Minister Mullah Baradar, who also heads the economic commission, established the new state-run investment company called Afghan Invest.

Officials said Afghan Invest, a limited liability company, with a capital of $250 million, was recently inaugurated as a result of Baradar’s efforts.

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