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Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Trade Normalizes After Visa Rule Suspension

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The resumption of cross-border trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan follows a temporary disruption caused by Pakistan’s introduction of a new visa rule. Commercial traffic came to a standstill when Pakistan enforced a requirement for the crew of commercial vehicles to possess passports and visas. In response, Afghanistan refused entry to trucks, leading to a suspension of trade. A Pakistan customs official revealed that talks between officials from the Ministry of Commerce and their Afghan counterparts resulted in an agreement to extend the implementation of the new rule by an additional two weeks for Afghan drivers. This decision followed two prior deferrals by Pakistan.

The media office of the governor of Nangarhar province in Afghanistan confirmed the normalization of cross-border trade after diplomatic discussions. The statement indicated optimism that the issue would be permanently resolved. The situation has unfolded against the backdrop of strained relations between Kabul and Islamabad, exacerbated by Pakistan’s plans to deport hundreds of thousands of Afghan migrants allegedly residing illegally in the country. Approximately 340,000 Afghans have been deported or voluntarily returned thus far.

Pakistan’s imposition of a requirement for passports and visas represents a departure from a longstanding practice allowing individuals to cross the border with national identity cards. Afghanistan, a landlocked nation heavily reliant on imports through Pakistan, faced disruptions in trade. Pakistan, grappling with a significant economic crisis, contends that allowing duty-free entry for Afghan-bound goods results in substantial financial losses. Additionally, concerns about smuggling and illegal sales further complicated the situation.

Pakistan justified the mass deportation of migrants by citing the need to safeguard its welfare and security, particularly in light of an increase in attacks attributed to militants operating from Afghanistan. The Taliban government in Afghanistan has consistently asserted that it does not permit foreign militants to use its territory, characterizing Pakistan’s security concerns as a domestic matter.

This recent development highlights the intricate diplomatic and economic challenges in the region, as both countries navigate issues related to trade, security, and the movement of people across their shared border.

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Bangladesh Delegation Eyes WTO MC13 to Safeguard Developing Nations’ Interests

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The 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is scheduled to take place from February 26 to 29, 2024, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Ministers from around the world will gather to assess the performance of the multilateral trading system and address the future agenda of the WTO. A delegation from Bangladesh, led by State Minister for Commerce Ahsanul Islam Titu, comprising eight members, will participate in the conference.

This edition of the ministerial conference holds particular significance for Bangladesh as the country is set to transition from a Least Developed Country (LDC) to a developing nation by 2026. Typically held every two years, the conference will focus on critical global issues, including subsidies in agriculture and fisheries, intellectual property rights, e-commerce, and global food security.

Senior Secretary of the Commerce Ministry, Tapan Kanti Ghosh, expressed Bangladesh’s commitment to safeguarding the interests of LDCs and other developing nations. While not highlighting specific issues for Bangladesh, he emphasized the country’s desire to maintain duty-free market access, intellectual property rights, and other trade facilities during the post-LDC graduation period.

Tapan highlighted Bangladesh’s advocacy for the continuation of technical facilities, such as training programs for officials and dispute settlement mechanisms, even beyond the LDC graduation. He affirmed that Bangladesh would play a robust role in these discussions. Additionally, he underscored Bangladesh’s priority on providing subsidies in the fisheries sector during the post-LDC graduation period.

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Saudi Imposes Tk15 lakh Fine for Unauthorized Hajj Performances

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The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia has declared a fine of SR50,000 (equivalent to Tk15 lakh) for individuals, whether tourists or local residents, who perform Hajj without official permission. According to Gulf News, the ministry emphasized the illegality of undertaking Hajj without the necessary approvals. Additionally, hefty fines of up to Tk15 lakh will be imposed on those found transporting Hajj pilgrims without the required documents.

Furthermore, the ministry outlined severe consequences for foreigners involved in such violations, including a six-month imprisonment and subsequent deportation from Saudi Arabia. Those deported will also face a 10-year ban on reentering the country. This stringent announcement aims to ensure the proper implementation of the Hajj process and deter any potential breaches of laws and regulations.

The penalties will be enforced through collaboration between the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate of Passports.

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UN Commemorates International Mother Language Day

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The International Mother Language Day was commemorated at the UN headquarters for the 8th consecutive year, organized jointly by the Permanent Missions of Bangladesh, Austria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Romania, and South Africa in collaboration with the UN Secretariat and UNESCO. Dennis Francis, President of the UN General Assembly, attended as the chief guest. The event included a multilingual discussion and cultural performances.

Ambassador Muhammad Abdul Muhith, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, paid homage to language martyrs and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He acknowledged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s role in UNESCO’s recognition of February 21 as the international mother language day and reiterated her call to make Bangla an official UN language. The importance of mother tongue-based education for quality and inclusive learning was emphasized.

The President of the UN General Assembly and other speakers appreciated Bangladesh’s leadership in celebrating the day, recognizing its role in proclaiming a day dedicated to mother languages. They highlighted the significance of mother tongue-based multilingual education for continuous learning and development. The event, attended by ambassadors, diplomats, UN officials, civil society, and the Bangladeshi community, featured interpretation in Bangla, Hindi, and Romanian. Cultural presentations included the theme song ‘Amar Bhai-er Rokte Rangano Ekushe February’ by the UN Chamber Music Society.

In the morning, the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh observed Martyrs Day and International Mother Language Day with solemnity. Wreaths were laid at the Shaheed Minar, and messages from the President, Prime Minister, and Foreign Minister were read out by mission officials.

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