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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would be joining leaders of Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan on May 12 to launch construction of much-awaited CASA-1000 electricity transmission project connecting four nations.

Speaking at a news conference, Tajikistan Ambassador Sherali S. Jononov also announced the launch of direct flights between Pakistan and Tajikistan on May 6.

He said the two steps would be a leap forward in regional integration besides helping to enhance people-to-people contacts and bilateral trade between the two countries.

Afghanistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan and Tajikistan have been pursuing the development of electricity trading arrangements and the establishment of a Central Asia-South Asia Regional Electricity Market (CASAREM) for almost a decade.

The initial plan was to export power in the range of 1,000 to 1,300MW from the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The major share of the export will be used by Pakistan, and approximately 300MW will be utilised by Afghanistan.

He said the Foreign Office of Pakistan had conveyed confirmation that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would attend the launching ceremony of CASA-1000MW power import project, to be held near Dushanbe.

“Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev will also attend the launching ceremony of the project,” he said, adding that it would be a ‘peace line’ project which would connect neighbours in the region.

He said the project would be completed in two years after the launch and the total project cost was estimated at $1.2 billion. He said that Pakistan would get clean hydroelectric power at cheaper rates to minimise its energy crisis.

He said that Tajikistan was rich in hydroelectric resources and there were more than 1,000 rivers and lakes in the country.

Responding to question regarding security in Afghanistan, he said that Afghanistan had given a sovereign guarantee to protect the transmission line passing through it.

“We have two transmission lines from Tajikistan to Afghanistan for the last 17 years and there have been no security issues,” he said, adding that things were moving forward with focus on energy trade in the region. He said that Tajikistan had offered investment opportunities for investors of Pakistan and it could be materialised by enhancing air contacts.

Among other sectors of the economy, he said the energy sector of Tajikistan had been showing sustainable growth over the last 15 years.

In Pakistan, the rate for firm energy is 13.2 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) and the rate for non-firm energy is 9.2 cents per kWh. The electricity cost, including all charges for the imported electricity from the Central Asian States would be around 9.35 cents per unit, he said. Pakistan was importing electricity for Gwadar area at the rate of 10 cents per unit.

The project will not only reduce electricity shortage in Pakistan, but will also replace fuel-based electricity generation for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A representative of Somon Air of Tajikistan, Nadeem Z. Cheema, who accompanied the Tajik envoy, said that direct flights would start on May 6 from Lahore to Dushanbe. He said that there would be two flights in a week. “In the second phase, we will start flights from Islamabad and Karachi after receiving encouraging response,” Mr Cheema said.

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2016