Govt urged to establish rail link with Afghanistan to boost bilateral trade

PESHAWAR: After Iran and Turkmenistan laid railway tracks to further expand their trade with Afghanistan, Pakistani traders have also demanded the construction of a railway system with Afghanistan to boost bilateral trade.

Shahid Hussain, former senior vice president of Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industries, told Profit that most countries in the world are opening up new avenues for their goods to reach international markets and “Pakistan should also extend its rail network to Afghanistan to easily export its products to the neighbouring country”.

He said that in order to increase its trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia, Pakistan would have to construct railway tracks from Peshawar to Jalalabad in the first phase; from Jalalabad to Central Afghanistan in the second phase; and then onwards to Central Asian countries in the third phase. “It will not only boost Pakistani exports to Afghanistan, but will also facilitate the country’s trade with Central Asian countries.”

It may be noted that three days ago, a delegation led by Uzbek Transport Minister Ilkhom Makhkamov met with Pakistan Railway Minister Azam Khan Swati in Islamabad. Apart from the rail project in Afghanistan, freight train service and other important issues were discussed during the meeting.

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Under the plan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan will be connected through rail via Afghanistan. Other Central Asian republics, including Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, will also be able to join the proposed railway project.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan also signed a joint call letter, requesting a $4.8 billion loan from international financial institutions for the project.

According to sources, the federal government in 2016 had decided to extend the track of Pakistan Railways from Peshawar to Kabul and then to Central Asian states under the Central Asian Economic Corridor project. The Asian Development Bank had also expressed interest in providing loans for the project. Pakistan Railways had then decided to conduct a feasibility study of Peshawar to Jalalabad and then from Jalalabad to Kabul track. A full feasibility report of the project was due to be completed in June 2017, but the same couldn’t be done for unknown reasons.

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