Pakistan’s trade and industry has quietly capitalised on business opportunities offered by rebuilding Afghanistan’s economy funded by huge foreign aid. The government, however, is seen by business to be active only in regional and global forums engaged with Afghanistan.
Thus its footprint in social and physical infrastructure developments in that country is not as deep as many believe it could and should have been. Islamabad has not been able to provide impetus to local businessmen to have a stronger presence in the Afghan market.
On the contrary, other regional powers particularly India are more involved in Afghanistan’s development activities. According to official sources in Islamabad, Indian investment in Afghanistan currently at $3 billion far exceeds Pakistan’s $330 million.
However, in terms of trade and commerce Pakistan is ahead of others. Afghanistan is the third biggest trading partner of Pakistan with annual volume of trade above two billion dollars recorded last fiscal. The balance of trade is in favour of Pakistan by a wide margin as imports from the eastern neighbour are a meagre $350 million (2011).
The popularity of Pakistani consumer items in Kabul and rising spending capacity of the consumers has attracted a number of Pakistani and multinational companies to that country. Besides Nestle, Lever Bros, Coke and Pepsi, some local industries like producers of cement, pharmaceutical and food sectors are said to be gaining ground in the Afghan market.
Pakistani brands such as Shan, National, Lucky, Parkland, patent drugs etc are visible in all major Afghan cities. Recently a joint chamber of two countries has been set up to promote business links between the two neighbours.