Afghanistan offered complete security for rail service up to Karachi-Gwadar ports

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LAHORE: Afghanistan has offered Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia complete security and safety to the rail service envisaging access to various Central Asian states up to Karachi and Gwadar ports.

The access to Pakistan’s ports will enable the countries, especially Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan, to export their goods to several countries through sea routes, according to a senior official of the Pakistan Railways.

“Under the Trans-Afghan Railways’ plan devised by the authorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, two routes are being considered to connect Mazar-i-Sharif (Afghanistan) with Peshawar (Pakistan). One route is 700km long and another 900km. Besides this, four proposals related to financial arrangement, feasibility, etc., regarding these routes are being worked out,” Pakistan Railways’ chairman Dr Habibur Rehman Gilani told media on Thursday.

Pakistan believes that easy communication, swift transportation and minimised trade barriers are key to economic growth, as these measures lead to comprehensive and inclusive growth of the whole region. Thus, regional connectivity is inevitable to attain economic growth. Keeping in view the situation, the federal government started working on increasing the regional connectivity through rail network.

A two-day conference of the multilateral Joint Working Group was held through a video link a couple of days ago to discuss the flagship project of Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar rail corridor. Representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, and Kazakhstan attended it.

The conference, presided over by Secretary/Chairman of Railways Habibur Rehman Gilani, was attended by the representatives of various ministries of Pakistan.

The project, which strongly supports the 2017-30 Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation region railway strategy, intends to equip the region’s railways to better capture evolving trade flows and contribute to regional economic development by improving rail and multimodal infrastructure and commercialising and reforming railway activities.

Uzbekistan is already connected through rail network with Afghanistan and Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan.

Mr Gilani said all participants of the virtual conference were unanimous to speed up the process for laying track from Mazar-i-Sharif to Peshawar via Kabul.

“During the conference, a work plan / line of action and protocols to proceed further were also signed by the respective countries’ representatives,” he said, adding that Kazakhstan had also expressed its interest in financing the Rs30bn project for rehabilitation of the decaying up /down railway track from Khanpur to Kotri (over 850km) -- a portion frequently witnessing accidents since long.

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