Coal starts coming in from Afghanistan

Published July 3, 2022
Pakistan Railway has decided to set up stations at four places to transport coal from Afghanistan. —Reuters
Pakistan Railway has decided to set up stations at four places to transport coal from Afghanistan. —Reuters

LAHORE: The country has started importing coal from Afghanistan and supplying it to the coal-fired power plants in different cities, an official told Dawn on Saturday.

“Coal from Afghanistan has started coming in a couple of days ago after the government directed the departments concerned, especially the Pakistan Railways, to make certain arrangements for a safe and rapid coal transport operation,” the official said.

“At present, fewer than 3,000 tonnes of coal are being brought daily at the Khushhal Kot railway station. However, the supply is expected to touch 20,000 tonnes after the beginning of coal operation from Kundian in Mianwali district and Sibi in Balochistan,” the official said, adding that the Sibi station would receive coal in trucks via the Wesh-Chaman border.

Earlier, reports suggest that the Afghan coal price more than doubled from $90 per tonne to around $200 after Pakistan decided to buy the commodity from its neighbour.

3,000 tonnes being imported at present

However, the official said that since Islamabad was paying for the coal in rupees, the increase in prices might not make a significant impact.

“An important meeting presided over by Federal Minister for Railways and Aviation Khawaja Saad Rafique would also be held in this regard on Sunday (today) at the Pakistan Railways’ headquarters in Lahore. During the meeting, the decisions related to the launch of coal operations within the next few days would also be taken,” the official said.

He said that under the agreement, it had also been decided to transport coal to power plants in Sahiwal and Hub through the rail network instead of by road.

Meanwhile, presiding over a meeting at the PR headquarters on Saturday, Mr Rafique directed the Pakistan Railways administration to ensure the provision of wagons to transport coal from Afghanistan.

He reviewed different matters related to the railway revenue and transportation of coal from Afghanistan. It was decided that transportation stations would be set up in Sibi, Kundian and Khushhaal Kot. The Railways secretary, chief executive officer and other officers attended the meeting.

In a meeting on June 27, the government decided to import coal from Afghanistan for the coal-fired power plants due to the price hike of petroleum products.

The meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, also approved the import of high-quality coal from Afghanistan in rupees instead of dollars to save the country’s foreign exchange.

The premier was informed during the meeting that the import of coal, initially required for Sahiwal and Hub power plants, from Afghanistan would help Pakistan cut the annual import bill by $2.2 billion.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2022

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