Wednesday May 22, 2024

Work on $5bn Pak-Afghan-Uzbek railroad kicks off

By Israr Khan
March 27, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Landlocked Uzbekistan has launched the construction of $5 billion (estimated cost) Trans-Afghan Railway Line project to access Pakistan’s major seaports, which will boost regional connectivity and trilateral trade, a statement said on Saturday.

Once the plan materialises, the region's landlocked countries will get access to the sea, enhance trade, and save money and time.

Due to Central Asia's distance from the open sea, railways have a pivotal role to play in the economic planning of these states, especially the double-landlocked Uzbekistan, is working on these proposals for years.

On February 2, 2022, these three countries in Tashkent agreed to a roadmap for the construction of 600-kilometre-long rail project connecting Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan (Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railroad).

"This Trans-Afghan Railway project is the most economical and shortest route connecting Central Asia with Pakistani ports of Karachi, Gwadar, and Qasim," said Muhammad Azfar Ahsan, Minister

of State and Chairman Board of Investment (BOI) while speaking at the Trilateral Working Meeting in Uzbek city of Termez.

“The route to Pakistan has received the most attention owing to its feasibility. In this regard, the Termez-Mazar-e-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway project could be a game changer for the region's future.”

He underscored that its geography makes Pakistan the shortest, most economical, and easiest land route for Central Asia to access Arabian Sea.

“Afghanistan is termed the 'heart of Asia.' It connects different regions, mainly Central Asia, via Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, South Asia via Pakistan, and the Middle East, via Iran,” Ahsan said.

Elaborating on the importance

of CPEC, he added that the extension could potentially help Afghanistan become part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

“Connectivity has become a defining feature of the modern economy. Central Asia needs to develop southern trade links to complement existing north, east, and west routes,” the minister further said.

During the session, available conditions of cargo transportation in Pakistan and proposals for increasing the volume of traffic between the three countries were discussed.

The minister appreciated the Uzbek government for organising the trilateral meeting to strengthen linkage and connectivity among the participant countries.

Ahsan said he was optimistic that this forum would translate into a new level of global economic connectivity and would prove to be a game-changer for the region.

The meeting was also attended by Governor of Surkhandarya region Bobolov To’ra Abdievich, Minister of Transport of Uzbekistan Ilkhom Makhkamov, Deputy Minister of Transport & Civil Aviation of Afghanistan Akbar Jan Polad, Deputy Minister of Investments & Foreign Trade Choriyev Otabek Bobomuratovich.