ISLAMABAD: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan discussed the initiation of a feasibility study for the trans-Afghan railway project during a trilateral working group meeting in Islamabad on Thursday.

The proposed project is aimed to connect Pakistan with the Central Asian Republics by connecting the existing railway link at Mazar-i-Sharif with Pakistan Railways network.

The trilateral meeting revie­w­­ed the progress made on the initial technical assessments and next steps for early initiation of the feasibility of the project, ac­­cording to the railways ministry.

The Trans-Afghan Railway project would not only facilitate the regional and bilateral trade between the participating countries, but would also provide better people-to-people connections to the entire region, the ministry said.

The meeting was co-chaired by additional secretary of Ministry of Railways Syed Mazhar Ali Shah and Alhaaj Mullah Bakht-ur-Rahman Sha­r­afat from Afghanistan and Ka­­malov Akmal Saidaka­baro­vich from Uzbekistan, who joined the huddle through a video link.

The scheme will facilitate regional and bilateral trade, says ministry

The three countries have already signed a roadmap strategic plan to construct a new 573km Trans-Afghan railway that will connect Central Asia with ports on the Arabian Sea. The agreement provides for conducting a joint expedition to survey the route and its terrain as well as a preliminary feasibility study for the project.

The line will run from Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan via Kabul to Peshawar and will connect with the existing Termez, Uzbekistan–Mazar-i-Sharif cross-border line, which opened in 2012, offering a direct rail link between Pakistan and the Uzbek capital of Tashkent. The line will support both passenger and freight services, and is expected to improve the region’s economy and connectivity, particularly for landlocked Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

According to the railway strategy for Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC), endorsed by CAREC ministerial conference held in Islamabad in 2016, currently about 25,000 kilometres of main railway corridors in and outside the CAREC region connect the countries within the region.

However, the existing rail network does not necessarily match the changing trade patterns it is meant to serve. Growing export and import activity with China and Europe are not currently being served. Railways have the potential to transform the region from being landlocked into land-linked and connecting it better with its rapidly growing neighbours.

The strategy report says CAREC countries face different challenges in upgrading and enhancing transport networks and improving their integration. In particular, the extent to which the rail transport is used and the maturity of intermodal linkages varies widely. Differential economic growth, changing trade patterns, and local developments in transport structures change the demands for rail freight transport.

In the current difficult global economic environment, CAREC countries will need to further strengthen regional cooperation and integration efforts. Invest­ment in railway assets, including freight cars and locomotives, and implementation of related soft measures to enhance trade will be critical factors in making railways attractive for shippers and transport operators.

The strategy report says enha­n­­cing railway connectivity, promoting trade and investment across borders, and improving access to external markets will help improve the economic prospects of the sub-region as a whole.

Published in Dawn, january 6th, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Elections in India
Updated 21 Apr, 2024

Elections in India

Independent accounts and spot reports are at variance with Modi-friendly TV anchors and they do not see an easy victory for the Indian premier.
IHC letter
21 Apr, 2024

IHC letter

THIS is a historic opportunity for the judiciary to define its institutional boundaries. It must not be squandered....
Olympic preparations
21 Apr, 2024

Olympic preparations

THIS past week marked the beginning of the 100-day countdown to the Paris Olympics, with the symbolic torch-lighting...
Isfahan strikes
Updated 20 Apr, 2024

Isfahan strikes

True de-escalation means Israel must start behaving like a normal state, not a rogue nation that threatens the entire region.
President’s speech
20 Apr, 2024

President’s speech

PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari seems to have managed to hit all the right notes in his address to the joint sitting of...
Karachi terror
20 Apr, 2024

Karachi terror

IS urban terrorism returning to Karachi? Yesterday’s deplorable suicide bombing attack on a van carrying five...