ISLAMABAD: US Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen has said that the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in the border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan will help bring political stability and block the way for elements like al- Qaeda and ISIS after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Karachi-born Senator Van Hollen said this during a virtual conference on Pakistani-Afghan Economic Development Law with Pakistani and American journalists, hosted by Pakistani-born Democratic leader Tahir Javed. It is a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senator Van Hollen and other members of the United States Congress. In response to another question, the senator said that the bill was not intended to move the CPEC and that in fact he proposed this bill about 15 years ago. He said he and his colleagues had re-launched efforts to introduce these business incentives in Pakistan and Afghanistan to promote employment and business activity to limit the likely chaos after the US exit.
Senator Van Hollen noted that he was aware that the United States packed its bags after Russia left Afghanistan in the 1980s and did not look back, which led to the Taliban and Al Qaeda control in the region.
To a question, he said that there are three proposed ROZs in Pakistan in the newly merged areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), other colonized districts of KP and in the areas of Balochistan which border Afghanistan.
The senator said he was prepared to extend the validity of the current bill beyond the proposed timetable of 2030. He said the bill provided duty-free access to original textile and clothing products. Pakistani and that other products may be added in the coming years subject to US trade. considerations. He said that employment for local people will be secured in the implementation of the bill.
Van Hollen noted that he encourages investment in Pakistan through the United States Development Bank for private sector investment in important parts of the world and that this facility and others are available to them. private sector companies in all parts of Pakistan. He said ILO standards should be met in free zones and other mandatory conditions for US commerce.
Democratic leader Tahir Javed said Pak-U.S. Trade could increase tenfold with the successful implementation of ROZ zones and hoped the bill would pass. Prominent Pakistani journalists attended the event along with Shahid Ahmed Khan of Boston.
Van Hollen has worked successfully with members from both sides to pass bipartisan legislation, including expanding medical research, protecting the Chesapeake Bay, fighting childhood cancer, and passing the ABLE Act to help families with disabled children. He was also instrumental in issuing a bipartisan letter with Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Ben Cardin and Senator Todd Young for the Kashmir Crisis.
In 2019, Senator Van Hollen and Maggie Hassan traveled to Pakistan to settle the Kashmir conflict and also to oversee federally administered trade zones and are now the sponsor of the ROZ bill.