Pakistan is keen on unleashing its geographic location potential for better regional connectivity through railways. In this respect, Pakistan Railways (PR) can play a pivotal and vibrant role not only in domestic but also in regional connectivity, WealthPK reported.
Geographically, Afghanistan is very important to Pakistan for its access to the Central Asian Republics (CARs) as Islamabad does not share a direct border with any of the CARs. The only point of entrance to Tajikistan is via the Wakhan Corridor located in north-eastern Afghanistan – which connects Afghanistan to China. This section – which connects Afghanistan, China, Tajikistan and Pakistan – is part of the ancient silk route. Currently, the PR is working on the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar rail project – also called the Trans Afghan Railways – to rebuild ties with Afghanistan and CARs. The project, costing around $5 billion, will connect the Central Asian states to the seaports of Karachi, Gwadar, and Bin Qasim via Afghanistan with a track length of 573 kilometres, according to WealthPK research.
According to former minister for railways Mohammad Azam Khan Swati, the project will not only provide a gateway to Pakistan to access CARs, but will also help Islamabad earn substantial revenues in terms of dollars.
Similarly, a new rail project with the total length of 628 kilometres – which is under the umbrella of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, will be built right from Haripur dry port in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Khunjerab in Gilgit-Baltistan. It would prove to be a game-changer for Pakistan as it will link China to the seaports of Karachi, Gwadar and Bin Qasim. According to the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation, which was set up in 1997 by the Asian Development Bank to encourage economic cooperation among countries in Central Asia and nearby parts of Transcaucasia and South Asia, given the current difficult global economic environment.