KARACHI: Pakistan Ambassador designated to Tajikistan Muhammad Saeed Sarwar has said that Tajikistan holds huge potential for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs), Pharmaceutical Products and many other products which can also capture a sizeable share in other Central Asian Republics as well so the business community must come forward and explore new avenues of trade and investment cooperation with Tajikistan.

“The business community will have to focus on diversifying exports to Tajikistan as currently, our exports remain mostly confined to fruits, vegetables, rice and cereals etc. which is the basic reason why the bilateral trade remains negligeable to around US$30 million only which is too low as compared to potential”, he added while speaking at a meeting during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI).

President KCCI Mohammed Tariq Yousuf, Senior Vice President Touseef Ahmed, Vice President Haris Agar, Chairman Diplomatic Missions & Embassies Liaison Subcommittee Zia ul Arfeen, Former Senior Vice President Arshad Islam, Former Vice President Qazi Zahid Hussain and Managing Committee Members were also present at the meeting.

Saeed Sarwar further mentioned that Pakistan recently signed a Transit Trade Agreement with Tajikistan in December last year which would operationalize soon. “Although few things were pending from both sides but the implementation phase of this important agreement will begin very soon.”

He was of the view that Pakistan can use Tajikistan as a gateway to the landlocked Central Asian Republics. “With the help of colleagues and stakeholders in Pakistan as well as in Tajikistan, it will be my top priority to turn the dream of improved connectivity with Tajikistan into reality. Although there are challenges but these could easily be surmounted through collective efforts, close coordination and regular consultation.”

He noted that a huge range of Pakistani products being exported to Afghanistan were being re-exported to Tajikistan as Pakistani containers cannot directly move to Tajikistan and they have to go through cross shifting twice at Afghanistan and Tajikistan borders so it makes the procedure very complicated and discourages bilateral trade. “Under TIR Convention, different carriers operate in this region without transloading so I will be making efforts to somehow introduce any such TIR licensed carrier for Pakistan as well so that our containers could also move smoothly without any transloading during transit to Tajikistan”, he added.

Referring to concerns expressed over lack of proper banking channel between Pakistan and Tajikistan, he said that it was definitely a big concern for the business community which would be taken up with relevant authorities on top priority as soon as he reaches Tajikistan.

To a query regarding direct flights, the Envoy informed that Somon Air, which is the national air carrier of Tajikistan, was planning to initiate direct weekly flights between Tajikistan and Pakistan. The airline was in touch with aviation authorities and was also negotiating with ground handling agents. As soon as these negotiations reach conclusion, Somon Air will start its operations.

President KCCI Tariq Yousuf, while welcoming the Ambassador, pointed that although Tajikistan and other Central Asian States were lucrative markets for Pakistani businessmen but they were unable to reap benefits mainly due to unavailability of banking channels and lack of connectivity including direct flights and transit routes. “It is going to be an uphill task for the new Ambassador who, in addition to dealing with the issue of Banking Channel, will also have to make efforts for improving connectivity between the two countries via air and road network which, if done, would certainly give a good boost to trade and investment.”

Extending full support and cooperation to the Ambassador, he said that Karachi Chamber was keen to improve trade and investment ties with Tajikistan and was ready to even send a trade delegation to explore avenues of trade and investment cooperation.